Florida Lawmakers Sponsor Bill to Stabilize Medical Malpractice System

The medical liability climate in Florida is a mess. Medical malpractice insurance in Miami’s Dade County is more expensive than any other in the nation, and the high cost of medical malpractice premiums influence too many doctors in the Sunshine State to choose to practice bare, without any liability insurance coverage at all. Add the estimated multi-billion-dollar annual cost of the state’s physician force practicing defensive medicine in hope of avoiding a lawsuit, and you have a bloated, inefficient and expensive medical malpractice system strangling the delivery of healthcare to all Floridians.

In recent months, a number of reform-minded organizations have been pushing a policy approach to the problem that would rework Florida’s medical malpractice system to align the interests of patients and their physicians, reduce costs and optimize the quality of healthcare. Now, two Florida legislators have teamed with those organizations to sponsor legislation that would rebuild the state’s system for compensating victims of medical negligence to more closely resemble Florida’s worker compensation system.

Senate Bill 1588/House Bill 1233, the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act, introduced by State Sen. Alan Hays and State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, would create a medical malpractice system to address malpractice compensation claims through an administrative—rather than litigious—process that aims to reduce medical errors, ensure the injured are fairly compensated and protect healthcare workers from unfair litigation.

The legislation proposed by Hays and Patronis would create a patients compensation system that would utilize a no-fault, state-driven approach modeled after the legal precedent of Florida’s worker compensation system to better align the interests of patients, doctors and taxpayers; lower healthcare costs by reducing the incidence of unnecessary tests and procedures currently ordered by healthcare workers seeking to protect themselves from potential lawsuits; and improve quality of patient medical care by establishing a system that realigns incentives toward patient safety and a reduction in medical errors, while assuring all patient complaints are heard and quickly resolved. The system would also ensure more patients are fairly compensated.

The proposed legislation has been enthusiastically endorsed by Florida physicians. According to polling by Oppenheim Research, 93 percent of the state’s healthcare workforce supports the system outlined in the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act. Many of those physicians cite the burdensome cost of medical malpractice insurance as the biggest stress on their practice. Senate Bill 1588/House Bill 1233 promises to have a deflating effect on medical liability insurance because the legislation would add predictability to the length of process, dollar size of verdicts and outcome of medical liability disputes.