Tag Archives: Connecticut

Connecticut Legislators Threaten Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates

The Connecticut Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved legislation that would significantly hamper the effectiveness of the state’s 2005 medical malpractice tort reforms.

In 2005, the Connecticut legislature passed a law that requires a person alleging medical malpractice to get a written opinion from a physician practicing in a similar specialty as the accused that supports the plaintiff’s alleged claim before filing their lawsuit. If the plaintiff does not submit the written opinion, or the opinion does not meet the specific requirements of the law, a judge can dismiss the case prior to the merits are even heard. These kinds of tort reforms are commonly referred to as certificate of merit laws.

If the update to the 2005 medical malpractice tort reforms currently being considered is signed into law, it would greatly ease the certificate requirements. This in turn would increase claims frequency, having an inflationary effect on Connecticut’s medical malpractice insurance premiums.

The debated update to Connecticut’s tort laws would increase the types of healthcare providers who can write the opinions (certificate of merit). No longer would the healthcare worker writing the opinion be required to be practicing in a “similar” specialty, but simply be “qualified.” Yes, it sounds like a game of semantics, but it would open the floddgat5es as to who could write the certificate of merit.

The 2005 tort reforms have been extremely successful at deflating the claims frequency in Connecticut. The number of medical malpractice claims has dropped in the state by 20 percent since the tort reforms were signed into law.

The new legislation currently being considered would not only ease the certificate of merit requirement, it would give plaintiff’s 60 days to fix any flawed certificate of merit rather than allowing the judge to summarily dismiss the claim.

Connecticut doctors, hospitals officials and healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association, have testified against the legislation. They argue that getting rid of the requirement for “similar” providers would open the door to faulty opinions being placed with the court. They also argued that it would undo any relief Connecticut doctors have received in their medical malpractice insurance premiums.

The bill is currently awaiting action in the Connecticut Senate.

Connecticut Legislature Looking to Weaken Expert Witness Rules, Raise Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates

A bill currently in front of the Connecticut General Assembly, and championed by the trial lawyers lobby, intends to weaken the definition of an expert witness in medical malpractice lawsuits. If the requirements attached to expert testimony are weakened, it would likely have an inflationary effect on medical malpractice insurance rates for healthcare workers practicing in Illinois.

Tort reforms passed in 2005 required that a plaintiff’s expert witness in a medical malpractice pretrial inquiry be a “similar healthcare provider” to the defendant. In other words, if the defendant is a cardiologist, the plaintiff’s expert witness must also be a cardiologist.

The bill currently being considered by the Connecticut General Assembly would change the expert witness requirement from a “similar healthcare provider” to a “qualified healthcare provider.” The ambiguity of the term “qualified” would open the door to almost any physician being qualified to give expert testimony. No longer would expert testimony during a medical malpractice trial against a cardiologist be limited to that of a cardiologist. If passed, the bill would mandate that the testimony of a podiatrist be admissible in a malpractice trial where a patient died of a heart attack after visiting his or her cardiologist.

The 2005 reform also mandated that a plaintiff submit a written opinion as to the expert witnesses qualifications. The legislation being considered would make that requirement moot.

Expert witness requirements are a valuable tort reform when it comes to ensuring fairness in medical malpractice lawsuits. This is truth because the burden of proof in a medical malpractice lawsuit is that the defendant physician had violated the standard of care for the specialty the defendant practices. Only an expert witness practicing the same specialty in the same geographic area could actually be an expert as to the prevailing standard of care the defendant physician is operating under.

If the Connecticut General Assembly dilutes the state’s expert witness requirements in medical malpractice lawsuits, one can expect claims frequency to grow. Once claims frequency grows, medical malpractice insurance rates begin to swell. This is a road the Connecticut General Assembly doesn’t want to go down.

High Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates Causing a Doctor Shortage in Connecticut

Side note: Sky-high medical malpractice insurance rates, and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements, are causing a shortage of doctors in the state of Connecticut. There is more of a demand for primary care physicians than there is doctors to fill the need; this is especially true in the state’s urban areas. Many patients who receive assistance from Medicaid and Medicare find that they must travel great distances to get treatment, if they can find a doctor to treat them at all. Patients with conventional medical coverage often face the same problems. Even though the doctor shortage is a nationwide problem it is especially prevalent in Connecticut where it is not uncommon for doctors to pay upwards of $175,000 for medical malpractice insurance coverage.

New Haven Independent
by Magaly Olivero

After 17 years as a family practitioner, Ayaz Madraswalla, MD, recently made one of the most painful decisions of his career to remain economically viable: Mansfield Family Practice will no longer accept new Medicare patients. The decision leaves older adults in Windham County – already struggling with a severe shortage of primary care physicians – with one less place to turn to for medical care. “It’s a terrible situation,” said Madraswalla. “But it’s the reality of medicine today.”
In Litchfield County, Dr. William Handelman, a kidney specialist with Nephrology Associates in Torrington, has difficulty finding medical specialists and subspecialists for his patients. Patients who receive Medicaid must travel to the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. Even patients with private health insurance often wait months and travel great distances for an appointment with a specialist.
“Primary care physicians and specialists across the state cannot keep up with demand and it’s impacting everyone whether you have private insurance or receive assistance from Medicare or Medicaid,” said Handelman, a past president of the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS). “We’re seeing a huge group of people with health insurance who cannot get in to see a doctor and are going to community health centers in Connecticut and across state borders for care.”

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Foley announces health care plan for Connecticut

Side note: Citizens of the state of Connecticut have access to some of the finest health care available in the United States; unfortunately it is also some of the most expensive. The high cost of health care in Connecticut is straining family budgets and draining the state’s coffers as it drives jobs out of the state. The governor of Connecticut, Tom Foley, has proposed a three step plan to lower the cost of health care in Connecticut. Step 1 is to become the healthiest state in the union by 2020. Foley cites cigarette smoking, obesity and drug, and alcohol, abuse as three of the largest health care expenditures. Educating people to stay clear of self destructive life styles could have immediate benefits to the cost of health care. Step 2 is a plan to reduce the cost of delivering health care by 10% over the next five years. This could be done by implementing electronic record keeping programs and improving the way victims of medical malpractice and medical errors are compensated. Step 3 is a multiple part plan designed to improve the quality of care in Connecticut. Govenor Foley hopes that his plan will lower the cost of heath care in Connecticut while simultaneously improving the health care options available.

Acorn-Online

Connecticut’s health care system provides excellent health care to most of its citizens and it is an important contributor to our economy. However, the cost of delivering health care in Connecticut is higher than in almost every other state in the country. The high cost of health care puts a strain on our state’s budget and burdens employers and individuals with high health insurance costs. These high costs strain family budgets and drive jobs out of the state. Good health care policy in Connecticut should focus on improving the quality and accessibility of health care services while driving health care costs down.
Health care services collectively account for one-sixth of Connecticut’s economy and one-third of Connecticut’s state budget. The state spends nearly $7 billion a year on health care through Medicaid, employee benefits for active and retired state employees and state sponsored insurance programs. Although Connecticut has extended coverage to over 90 percent of our citizens, we still have basic coverage and insurance affordability issues that need to be addressed. The recently enacted federal bill will largely define how those issues will be handled. State-based plans for expanding coverage need to be tabled until we understand the structure and impact of the federal plan. Our health care focus near term in Connecticut needs to be on lowering costs, improving quality and improving the health status of our citizens.

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Connecticut’s New Mediation Law No Panacea, Say Med-Mal Lawyers

Side note: In an effort to lower the cost of medical malpractice insurance in Connecticut lawmakers have imposed mandatory mediation in all medical malpractice cases. According to the new law all medical malpractice cases must undergo a 120 day period of mediation. After the period of mediation expires, if the two sides cannot come upon an agreement, the case will proceed to trial.

Connecticut law makers imposed the period of mediation as an alternative to caps on medical malpractice lawsuits that are popular in many cases. Attorneys and lawmakers alike agree that the mediation period is not a magic cure-all but agree that it may help to weed some of the nuisance law suits that tend to drive up the cost of medical malpractice insurance coverage.

According to our unique, historical data, medical malpractice insurance rates in Connecticut have remained stable in recent years but have not decreased from the highs established in 2005. Connecticut law makers hope that the mandatory mediation period will help maintain, if not lower, the cost of medical malpractice insurance in the state on Connecticut.

by Thomas B. Scheffey
The Connecticut Law Tribune

Plaintiff and defense lawyers are trying to gauge the overall impact of a new state mandate requiring mediation in medical malpractice cases.

So far, the apparent consensus is the new law may take smaller cases off the litigation track, but won’t resolve big-ticket cases that require the opinions of experts and extensive discovery.

The provision, which became effective July 1, calls for the presiding judge in the judicial district where a med-mal case is filed to refer the matter to a 120-day period of mediation or to another form of alternative dispute resolution “before the close of the pleadings.”

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Law.com, it has been moved or deleted. We looked for the original but were unable to locate it. We will keep our version here for archiving reasons.