Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick nominated wife of major med-mal lawyer to oversee doctor discipline

Last September, Massachusetts Governor Patrick nominated Kathleen Meyer to fill a Board of Registration in Medicine position that oversees doctor discipline.  This of course wouldn’t be an issue a majority of the time, but Kathleen is married to Andrew Meyer.  Andrew is one of the state’s leading medical malpractice plaintiff attorneys, and this is seen by many in the health care sector as a conflict of interest. We could maybe see some wiggle room if the lawfirm Lubin & Meyer also did some defense work, but this doesn’t appear to be the case when reviewing the med-mal portion of their website.

Doctors, healthcare professionals, medical societies and a host of others have written the Governor to try and get Kathleen’s name removed as a possible replacement on the Board.  One of the letters, written by Richard V. Aghababian, the President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, makes a strong case as to why she shouldn’t be on the board:

The potential for conflicts of interest are obvious. We’re deeply concerned about her impartiality in cases that reach the board, as well as her possible early access to unvetted complaints filed by patients against physicians – patients who could be clients of Lubin and Meyer and other malpractice firms.

But simply recusing herself from problematic cases wouldn’t solve the entire problem. She is in a position to strongly influence the discussion and implementation of many important public policy issues, most of which would affect or even benefit Lubin and Meyer, both directly and indirectly.

We hope the Governor reconsiders this and take a different course of action.  There is always a chance that Mrs. Meyers will be impartial, but is this the right time to take that chance?  Healthcare is going through a major over-haul and people in this sector are worried about almost everything.  Doctors are concerned that The Affordable Care Act is going to not only erode the doctor/patient relationship, but is going to reduce the amount of money they receive for a majority of the work they do.  Healthcare organizations are being purchased at a rapid rate………we are starting to see more and more parts of the country suffer from doctor and nurse shortages.  Is this the right time to toss another log on the fire?

We know our Massachusetts doctors want to do the best for their patients.  However, when they see the Governor putting someone directly tied to a medical malpractice plaintiff law firm that goes after them into a position that oversees the licensure of physicians, this doesn’t seem the like the best idea.  We’d like to hear from our Massachusetts doctors, what is your take on this?

Medical malpractice insurance in Massachusetts already costs a lot, there’s no reason for doctors to think they are going to have an “enemy” sitting in front of them when they have discipline issues.

Massachusetts' New Disclosure, Apology and Offer Law

Man Giving Patient Flowers The new “Disclosure, Apology and Offer Law” from Massachusetts is unprecedented. It has doctors and lawyers working together! It’s a good day. If you follow this blog, you know that we are big fans of tort reform and innovative attempts at lowering medical malpractice costs and streamlining the claim process. The new Disclosure, Apology and Offer provision is part of a larger health care cost control bill that was passed on August 6 by the Massachusetts legislature and signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick. The Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach is endorsed by the Massachusetts Medical Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Essentially, this provision is a “less hostile” way for physicians and lawyers to work together to address medical mistakes and claims of medical malpractice. Its simple approach is this:
1. Disclose mistakes.
2. Apologize to the patient and family if appropriate.
3. Offer compensation as a means to avoid litigation when possible.

The provision provides a six-month, “pre-litigation resolution period” for the three-step process above which allows for full disclosure, sharing of medical records and an apology that would be inadmissible in court. Essentially, the Disclosure, Apology and Offer provision allows for total transparency by physicians and health care institutions.

We have seen this model employed by larger health care systems with success. To see it on a state-wide level will be interesting to watch. Both sides say it will reduce some unnecessary and drawn-out lawsuits and help to improve patient safety. This approach makes Massachusetts the first state in the US to have comprehensive legislation to support a disclosure, apology and offer program across multiple practice environments with multiple insurance arrangements.

We will keep you posted on this new program and look forward to seeing the anticipated results it should bring. If you are a physician looking for Massachusetts liability insurance, or would like to check in and see what the rates are doing, don’t hesitate to call us.

Professor Argues Against Massachusetts Apology Approach

Last month, the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), joined by six healthcare organizations, announced the launch of a new initiative to improve the commonwealth’s medical liability system.

The new alliance collectively created what it refers to as the Roadmap to Reform, an alternative approach to medical liability rooted in the process of Disclosure, Apology and Offer (DA&O) that has proven highly successful at the University of Michigan Health Care System for more than a decade. The new approach is expected to improve patient safety, increase transparency, reduce litigation and cut costs to the commonwealth’s healthcare system.

Under the DA&O model, healthcare professionals and institutions as well as their insurers disclose to patients and families when unanticipated adverse outcomes occur. They explain what happened, establish systems to improve patient safety and prevent the recurrence of such incidents. When appropriate, the healthcare team apologizes and offers fair financial compensation prior to the patient resorting to legal action. This system should not deny patients the right to bring legal action, but rather make tort claims a last resort. Of course, when claims have no merit, they will be robustly defended.

In the wake of the fanfare that surrounded the announcement of the Roadmap to Reform and its implementation, Gabriel, Teninbaum, JD, a professor of legal writing, has come out criticizing the initiative. According to Teninbaum, the new system is rife with opportunity to confuse patients and manipulate them into accepting unfair compensation for medical injury.

Is the manipulation of a patient under the DA&O model a possibility? Yes, but apology in medicine is not a new concept, and it has proven successful in application at the University of Michigan Health System. It’s also a known fact that many patients sue their doctor because they feel the doctor simply didn’t care about their injury or dissatisfaction. When dealt with honestly and with empathy, most patients are less likely to sue their doctor for medical malpractice.

Let’s give this Roadmap to Reform some time to prove whether it is in fact a positive, rather than jump to nefarious conclusions.

Massachusetts Hopes Apology Approach Will Reduce Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums

Last week, the Massachusetts Medical Society announced that six of its top healthcare organizations would be launching a new initiative aimed at improving the commonwealth’s medical liability system and lowering the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums.

The new initiative is titled, “Roadmap to Reform,” and it is based on the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach to claim closure. According to the Massachusetts Medical Society, the initiative is expected to improve patient safety, increase transparency, reduce the amount of litigation and cut the overall cost of Massachusetts’ the healthcare system.

Seven hospitals will be participating in this year’s pilot program. Input for the pilot program was received from the Massachusetts Medical Society, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Bay State Health, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, Massachusetts Hospital Association and Medically Induced Trauma Support Services.

Under the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach, when an adverse medical outcome occurs, the hospital, physician and their insurance companies will investigate and explain to the patient and his or her family what happened and why. They will then apologize for the adverse outcome and make an early financial offer to rectify the situation. Most importantly, the hospital and physician will detail to the patient and his or her family what steps will be taken to ensure the error does not occur again in the future.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and the other entities behind the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach believe that both patients and physicians will regard the new model as being more fair, timely and supportive than the traditional response to adverse events, which is combative, discourages the exchange of statistics and impedes efforts to improve patient safety. They also believe the Disclosure, Apology and Offer approach will lead to quicker resolution of cases and enhance the reporting of medical errors.

In addition to funding from the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act, three of the nation’s largest healthcare insurance companies supported the Disclosure, Apology and Offer model’s implementation.

More than Half of Med Mal Cases in Massachusetts Dropped

Side Note: A new study shows that almost 60% of med mal cases in the state of Massachusetts are eventually dropped by plaintiffs. If you’re a Massachusetts physician, that’s good news and bad news. It’s good news because the case against you was dropped, but bad news because you were put through quite a bit of stress going through the med mal litigation process, not to mention time and wages lost –I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could, too. In the study, it took an average of nearly 3 years before a claim was dropped –3 years!

Looking at the bigger picture: additional time, money and resources were lost having the med mal insurance company fight the claim. The average cost for a dropped claim was $25,735. Not small change. And, as you know, this adds up to higher Massachusetts med mal premiums. The article below also details reasons why most cases are dropped. Read on for the interesting answers and learn about a pilot project to help alleviate the lag time involved in potential cases being dropped.

Are you a Massachusetts physician and would you like to lower your Massachusetts physician liability premiums? If so, contact us today.

More than half of liability claims in Massachusetts end up being dropped
By: Alicia Gallegos
From: amednews.com
Posted: Aug. 8, 2011

Smiling PhysicianNearly 60% of liability claims against medical professionals in Massachusetts are dropped by plaintiffs during litigation, leading to significantly wasted defense costs and unnecessary distress for doctors, a study shows.

The report, published in the July issue of Health Affairs, analyzed 3,695 lawsuits against physicians, hospitals and other health care professionals filed between 2006 and 2010. According to the findings, 58.6% of claims were abandoned by plaintiffs, 26.6% were settled and 14.8% were adjudicated.

Here’s the original article.

Massachusetts Again Ahead of the Curve

Side Note: In the health care world, Massachusetts has a reputation for being progressive and ahead of its time. Massachusetts has already enacted universal coverage and is now looking to undertake the next step and work on cost-containment. Many health care experts are watching Massachusetts to see what lessons can be learned and applied, particularly on a national level.

Gov. Deval Patrick revealed his large-scale plan in February for cost-containment. We will highlight some of the most interesting parts of the proposal here. First, the plan utilizes the concept of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). An ACO is a group of hospitals or practices that work together to coordinate and integrate care and then share in the cost-savings. According to the bill, participation in ACOs would be voluntary and aims not only at generating savings, but also focusing on preventative care for patients and transparency. The second major piece of Gov. Patrick’s plan pertains to the Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner. The bill would give the Insurance Commissioner significant powers, including review of insurers’ rates and the ability to reject rates that were too high. The third major aspect of the bill involves trying to reform the medical liability system by working to resolve med mal cases more quickly and working to reduce the practice of defensive medicine. We applaud the efforts of Massachusetts to improve the health care system, particularly the Massachusetts med mal system. We believe that by reforming the Massachusetts med mal system, physicians will be able to see lower Massachusetts liability insurance premiums, which is what we here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com like to see.

Would you like to lower your Massachusetts liability premiums? If so, complete our free, no-obligation quote today.

Cost control the next step for Massachusetts health reform
By Tanya Albert Henry, amednews correspondent. Posted March 28, 2011.

Already a pioneer of health coverage expansion, Massachusetts is beginning to tackle the critical next phase of its health system reforms: containing costs. There may be debate about the best way to accomplish that, but observers agree it is the necessary next step if universal coverage is to be successful.

As physicians in Massachusetts work to help shape payment changes and other cost-containing efforts, the nation’s eyes are on the commonwealth to see how the process plays out and what lessons can be adapted to national health system reform implementation.

Original Article

Massachusetts Heading Toward Med Mal Reform?

Side Note: The state of Massachusetts is embarking on new health care reform. Governor Patrick recently introduced a bill that, if signed into law, would do a lot for med mal reform in the state. Already known for being progressive on health care issues, because of the state’s almost universal health care coverage, it comes as no surprise that Massachusetts is attempting to now reduce health care costs. The bill views medical liability reform as one piece of this puzzle.

The bill, entitled, “An Act Improving the Quality of Health Care and Controlling Costs by Reforming Health Systems and Payments,” has several medical malpractice reform elements worth noting. Together, these reforms can potentially lower medical malpractice insurance rates for Massachusetts physicians . First, while many physicians want to apologize for errors, they often do not out of fear of litigation and often are told not to do so. This is ironic, because often an apology can do the opposite –it can help prevent a lawsuit. Under Patrick’s new bill, apologies would not be considered admissible evidence in a med mal case. Second, the bill establishes a 180-day “cooling off period” before a medical malpractice lawsuit can be initiated. We at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com believe that this will do a lot to avoid potentially frivolous lawsuits. A cooling off period would allow individuals who may be angry or frustrated about treatment or care they have received to step back and think about the situation –not just charge off into a lawsuit because it feels good. These patients may realize that no harm may have actually been done. Third, it creates a process for patients and providers to communicate openly prior to litigation, should it be pursued, in the hopes that costly med mal litigation can be avoided and disputes can still be resolved.

If you are a Massachusetts physician and would like to reduce your medical malpractice insurance rates, complete our free, no-cost, no-obligation quote form today.

Massachusetts To Reform Health Care Payment And Delivery Systems
Source: Governor of Massachusetts Posted on: 17th February 2011

Governor Deval Patrick today announced comprehensive health care payment and delivery reform legislation designed to control rising health care costs and improve patient care.

The Governor’s proposal builds on the Patrick-Murray Administration’s bold leadership in achieving universal access to health care by confronting the next frontier – ensuring that health care is universally affordable.

Read the Full Article

Is the GOP Victory in the House a Boon for Obamacare?

Side note: The GOP resurgence in Congress could actually lead to improving Obamacare. As the Republican Party reclaims its voice in congress they are presented with the opportunity to make constructive changes to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Those expecting the GOP to attempt a repeal of PPACA will be greatly disappointed. Instead look for the Republicans to champion the popular parts of the bill such as the insurance company mandate to cover existing conditions and the raising of the cut of date for child dependency to 26. These components of the bill are too popular and any attempt to repeal them would be political suicide. Instead look for Republicans to implement medical malpractice tort reform and block the increased spending for Medicaid.

Boston.com
Editorial

PRESIDENT OBAMA threw down the gauntlet Wednesday on Republicans’ cries for dismantling the health reform law passed this year. Do the Republicans, he asked, want to go back to letting insurers deny coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition? Do the Republicans want to end the new law’s aid for the elderly caught in the Medicare doughnut hole on drug reimbursements?

Of course, the Republicans won’t take on these popular features of the law. Nor will they do away with the mandate on individuals to get coverage — the insurers insist on it in order to have enough healthy people in the insured pool to make it affordable to cover the less-than-healthy with preexisting conditions. Some Republicans talk about cutting funding for the reform. But the big outlays will not come until 2014 when the law goes into full effect. In the meantime, does the GOP really want to block, for instance, the $5 billion set aside to fund a high-risk insurance pool for the uninsured with pre-existing conditions until 2014 when private insurers have to cover them?

Still, there is a way for the Republicans to improve on the law — by strengthening its anemic effort to reform this country’s dysfunctional medical-malpractice system. The current system fosters costly defensive medicine, provides benefits to too few deserving victims of physicians’ mistakes, forces doctors in many specialties to buy high-premium insurance policies, and discourages the open reporting of treatment errors, even though such information could lead to genuine improvements in medical care.

Continue reading at Boston.com

Doctor sentenced to jail in abortion death case

Side note: Sometimes medical malpractice can cost a doctor a lot more than higher medical malpractice insurance premiums. Recently Rapin Osathanondh, age 67, was sentenced to a 2.5 years in jail for his negligence resulting in the death of Laura Hope Smith of Sandwich, Ma. The jail sentence was a result of Osathanondh’s failure to monitor Miss Smith after her abortion procedure; he also failed to call 911 when attempts to revive Smith failed. Investigators found that Osathanondh had falsified CPR certification cards and had taken shortcuts to make his office appear up to code, when in fact it was not. In addition to the jail term, Osathanondh was sentenced to pay Smith’s family 2 million dollars in a separate civil case.

By Karen Jeffrey
capecodonline.com

September 15, 2010 2:00 AMBARNSTABLE — The doctor who performed an abortion on Laura Hope Smith of Sandwich three years ago and admitted that his actions led to her death was escorted out of Barnstable Superior Court in handcuffs yesterday.

Rapin Osathanondh, 67, will serve at least three months in jail as a result of a plea negotiated Monday between his attorneys and Cape and Islands First Assistant District Attorney Brian Glenny. Osathanondh will serve that time in the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown, according to the plea agreement. He was sentenced to a 2½-year jail term with six months to serve. However, the plea agreement allows him out on parole after serving three months.

Osathanondh also settled a civil suit, agreeing to pay the victim’s parents, Tom and Eileen Smith of Sandwich,

$2 million. “Nobody won. Laura got justice, but it’s a tragedy all the way around,” Eileen Smith said.

Tom Smith said that despite Osathanondh affiliation with Harvard University he had “practiced Third World medicine” on patients like his daughter. Osathanondh was a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health at the time of Smith’s abortion.

Read the Rest of the Article

Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates Top Factor in Deteriorating Practice Environment for Massachusetts Physicians

Side note: On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Medical Society released its annual MMS Physician Practice Environment Index,a report on 9 factors in the state that influence the practice environment for physicians. For 16 of the past 18 years, the analysis has shown a decline in this environment – and 2009 was no exception.

Of the four factors cited in this decline, it’s no surprise that the cost of medical malpractice insurance is tops on the list. Last year, physician liability insurance rates for doctors in Massachusetts increased by 4% – and, for half of all physicians in the state, medical liability insurance costs make up at least 10% of their total business costs. Some specialists and surgeons are in even worse shape. With such high costs (not to mention an estimated $1.4 billion spent each year in Massachusetts for defensive medical procedures) Massachusetts should commit to tackling medmal reform sooner rather than later.

Contact: Richard P. Gulla
Massachusetts Medical Society
Press Release

Waltham, Mass. — May 25, 2010 — A Massachusetts Medical Society analysis released today shows a prolonged decline in the state’s physician practice environment and points to continuing concerns affecting physicians that are likely to affect the delivery of care to patients.

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