Archive for the ‘Healthcare News’ Category

$200 Million Dollar Settlement along with Reforms in Pennsylvania Malpractice Fight, but State will Keep What it Took

Pennsylvania Malpractice SettlementLast month Governor Tom Corbett’s office announced a settlement to a years long dispute between groups representing doctors and hospitals and the Pennsylvania state government.  In 2008 the Pennsylvania legislature, under then governor Ed Rendell, appropriated $100M from the state’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) fund to the general fund to balance the state budget.  This in turn led to litigation, which challenged not just the action of the state in this one instance, but the nature of the formula used to calculate the assessments that doctors in the state are required to pay into the fund.

Pennsylvania, like several states, has a fund that doctors pay into which covers medical malpractice liability beyond a certain threshold.  Doctors in the state are required to carry $1M in malpractice coverage with the added stipulation that $500,000 of that is purchased in the private market, while the other $500,000 is covered by the Mcare fund, into which assessments are paid annually. The idea behind this system is, of course, to reduce the cost to doctors of maintaining adequate malpractice coverage. It was put in place as a reform effort to promote doctor retention and ease the burden on healthcare providers at a time when malpractice rates in Pennsylvania were quite high.

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Voters Reject Proposition 46: No to Random Drug Testing and Raising the Damages Cap

Proposition 46 rejected by CaliforniansCalifornia voters rejected Proposition 46 on Tuesday by a more than 2 to 1 margin. The ballot initiative, would have raised caps on noneconomic damages in malpractice cases from $250,000 to over $1M, required doctors to submit to random, state mandated drug and alcohol tests, and required doctors to utilize a state run database when prescribing certain types of drugs. The final vote, which came in at 67.1% against and 32.9% for represents a sound rejection of the measure, and while most expected it to fail the margin is striking.

Proposition 46 garnered national attention and a great deal of money because it was viewed as something of a bellwether. California was the first state to implement a cap on non-economic damages in 1975, and has not raised that cap since. Had proposition 46 passed the cap would have more than quadrupled overnight, which would have set a precedent for other states, more than thirty of which have placed some type of cap on noneconomic damages since California led the way.

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Election Day is Coming Up – What will be the Fate of Proposition 46?

Proposition 46 and Election DayProposition 46, what is it?

Proposition 46 is an initiative that will be on the ballot in California this coming Tuesday, November 4. The initiative has garnered widespread attention from both critics and proponents. The most outspoken critics have been doctors, malpractice insurers, and others in the healthcare industry, while the most vociferous proponents have been trial lawyers.

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TEDMED 2014

TEDMED2014As I’m typing this, TEDMED 2014 is wrapping up. Most of us are familiar with TED, if nothing else via the occasional TED Talk that goes viral on social media. But building on TED’s tagline, “ideas worth spreading,” TEDMED describes itself as “a global community dedicated to unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Our goal is to seed the innovations of today, making possible the breakthroughs of tomorrow…for a healthier, more vibrant humanity.” And while TEDMED exists year round as an online community, the annual conference is what they are most well known for.

This year the conference was held simultaneously in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, with each venue hosting speakers in turn. Both Stanford and The University of California at San Francisco sponsored the event, which was simulcast not only between D.C. and San Francisco but all over the world. You can check out the talks here.

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Proposition 46 Making Waves in California and Nationwide

The nation is watching as money begins to pour into campaigns for, and especially against, a ballot initiative called Proposition 46 which is set to be on the November 4th ballot in California. The initiative would do three things:

  1. It would raise the caps on non-economic damages in malpractice cases from $250,000 to $1.1M.
  2. It would require doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.
  3. It would require doctors to consult a state administered prescription drug database before prescribing certain drugs to first time patients.

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Wisconsin Malpractice in the News

Wisconsin MalpracticeWisconsin has been in the news quite a bit lately with stories related to healthcare and particularly malpractice.  In many ways the state’s situation presents a microcosm of a number of the questions and contradictions at issue in states all across the U.S.  From debates about informed consent to available representation and fair compensation, incentives, motives and more are at issue in the many conversations being had and cases being decided across the state.  One thing is for sure—there isn’t much agreement.

For instance, malpractice filings are down dramatically in Wisconsin.  In fact, since 1999 the number of filings has dropped more than 50%.  Further, following but far exceeding a national trend, the number of paid claims in Wisconsin dropped 66% between 2003 and 2013, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).  These drops have followed in the wake of such reforms as the implementation of caps on non-economic damages, the creation of a state administered Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, and most recently passage of a law that gives doctors more discretion in the area of informed consent.

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Can “Meaningful Use” Improve the Quality of Healthcare?

Meaningful UseIt’s no secret that Americans spend more money on healthcare than any other developed nation in the world.  But does spending more money equate to higher quality healthcare?  According to a recent publication by the Commonwealth Fund, it does not.  In fact the report, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 2014 Update: How the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally, ranks the U.S. dead last, number 11 out of 11 countries studied, including Canada, France, and the United Kingdom.  The criteria included the cost, safety, and quality of healthcare as well as access to care.  While studies and opinions may vary on where we rank there is no debate that improvements need to be made to the healthcare system.  One way the Affordable Care Act attempts improve the quality of healthcare is through “Meaningful Use.”

“Meaningful Use” (MU) is the term used for an incentive program encouraging the adoption and effective use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) systems.  There are 3 stages of requirements spanning 6 years with objectives and measures that healthcare providers must meet in order to receive incentive payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). [Read more →]

July Brings New Medical Malpractice Reform to Oregon

reform to medical malpractice in oregonAs of July 1, 2014, Oregon Senate Bill 483 took effect, changing the way medical malpractice is handled in the state. The law, which was drafted by legislators in 2013 with the full support of Gov. John Kitzhaber, is the first of its kind to be implemented statewide in a comprehensive fashion. In a rare coming together of interests, SB 483 has garnered the praise and support of both the Oregon Medical Association and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association. The bill allows for what is known as Early Discussion and Resolution (EDR) in cases of adverse medical outcomes that lead to serious injury or death.

SB 483 called on the Oregon Patient Safety Commission to develop and implement administrative rules that would bring EDR not only to hospitals, but to all medical providers in the state. The commission brought together numerous experts and interest groups, as well as medical malpractice insurers, and representatives from major hospitals to work with their board in developing these rules and guidelines. The task force that was ultimately responsible for crafting the language of implementation included physicians, lawyers, and legislators among others.

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New Insurance Requirements for Arizona Docs

Arizona Medical Malpractice Expert Sean MintzIn October 2013, the Arizona legislature passed a measure that changes insurance requirements for many doctors in Arizona. Under this new provision, doctors contracted with the state Medicaid system are now required to carry sexual abuse and molestation insurance coverage.

eQuoteMD caught up with an expert in the field of Arizona medical professional liability insurance to find out more about the rule change. Sean Mintz of Centurion Medical Liability Services filled us in on the details: [Read more →]

A Medical Malpractice Reform Roundup

medical malpractice reformDespite then Senator Barack Obama’s support for medical malpractice reform in 2006, when he co-authored an article for the New England Journal of Medicine with Hillary Clinton highlighting its importance, the healthcare reform bill that we ended up with does little to nothing to address malpractice reform.  On one hand, that is frustrating to many of us in the healthcare industry who want to see stronger protections for doctors, and a more equitable system for addressing malpractice costs.  On the other hand, though, passage of the ACA has seemingly spurred some states toward pursuing their own malpractice reforms, whether because of incentives in the ACA itself, or just because it is now clear that for the time being malpractice reform is a state issue.

That said, there is at least one buzzworthy story at the federal level when it comes to malpractice reform. On February 27th, Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Ami Bera (D-CA) introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 4106, or the Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act, in the House that would introduce a safe harbor model for Medicare and Medicaid providers.  Under the provisions of the bill standards of care would be developed by a panel of experts, and doctors, by documented adherence to these standards, could shield themselves from liability.  The bill was referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Judiciary Committee for consideration.  While we expressed some reservations about a safe harbor system in a recent post, at least as a magic bullet solution to the problem of defensive medicine, it will be interesting to see if this bill gets any traction and, if so, how it performs.  You can read more about the bill here.

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