Tag Archives: Tennessee

Group Supports Administrative Compensation System in Tennessee

Patients for Fair Compensation Continues Push for Administrative Solution to Medical Malpractice Claims in Tennessee
Patients for Fair Compensation is making another push to change the way medical professional liability claims are adjudicated against physicians in Tennessee. The state’s medical association, trial bar and largest insurer of physician liability are saying, no way.

Founded in 2011 as a Section 501(c)(4) organization by Richard Jackson, chief executive of the healthcare staffing firm Jackson Healthcare, Patients for Fair Compensation advocates moving the determination of medical liability claims from the judicial method to a no-blame, administrative compensation system overseen by a Patient Compensation Board. The board would operate similar to the way workers’ compensation claims are handled, reviewing claims of medical liability and awarding settlements. All claims would be settled in a matter of months, rather than years.

According to Patients for Fair Compensation, eliminating the litigation process against physicians in favor of a Patient Compensation Board for the determination of medical liability compensation would lower healthcare costs by eliminating the incentive for physicians to practice defensive medicine. In addition to eliminating unnecessary medical tests and procedures, it would put patients at the forefront of the process and realign incentives towards patient safety and a reduction in medical errors, while assuring all patient complaints are heard, quickly resolved and more patients are fairly compensated.

This is not the first time Patients for Fair Compensation has campaigned for its Patient Compensation System before the Tennessee Legislature, nor is it the first state where it has lobbied for such legislation. In the past, it has advocated for its administrative liability compensation system in Florida, Georgia, Maine and Montana to no avail. The legislation never escaped committee in Florida, Georgia and Montana; it was voted down in Maine.

“We stand with the Tennessee Medical Association in opposition to the Patients for Fair Compensation legislation,” said Sherie Edwards, vice president of corporate and legal at State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co. (SVMIC), Tennessee’s largest provider of physician medical liability insurance. “If we thought the system was good for our physicians, we would be supportive of it. Our mission is to protect, support and advocate for our physicians, and this is not a good system for them.”

United in Opposition
When Patients for Fair Compensation eyed Georgia as the first state to try to enact its Patient Compensation System in 2013 under the banner Senate Bill 141, the Medical Association of Georgia, State Bar of Georgia and medical liability insurer MagMutual Insurance Co. banded together in opposition, favoring the existing medical liability tort reforms that were passed in 2005.

“Since the 2005 tort reforms, we have hard statistics that show claims frequency is down, malpractice payments are down, medical malpractice insurance premiums are down and competition is up,” said Joseph Cregan, MagMutual senior vice president and general counsel told Medical Liability Monitor in December 2013. “We’ve analyzed [Georgia] SB 141 in detail, and the No. 1 thing that should be noted is that the system it proposes has never been tried in any other state. There is no track record; no observable data to know what it would do. The other side claims — and has pointed out — statistics and measurements, but when you cut through all those, they’re just speculative.”

Last year, the American Medical Association officially commented on the “no-fault” system for compensating patients who experience adverse medical outcomes, calling the system “a new threat to medical liability reform” under which the number of medical liability claims paid would skyrocket.

SVMIC points to the fact that if the system is only enacted in Tennessee, the state’s physician population could expect increased claims and increased reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank, while healthcare professionals in neighboring states would continue to enjoy the national trend where claim frequency and claim costs continue to diminish.

“How many physicians are going to want to stay in a state where they face increased reporting to the Data Bank, when they could go right over the border to Kentucky or Alabama or Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina or South Carolina and avoid that?” Edwards asked. “We believe that would cause a real access to healthcare problem for consumers in Tennessee. The way the proposed legislation was worded last year, a panel of physicians would look at the care rendered before deciding whether or not it met a national standard of care, which we don’t have in Tennessee. We have a local standard of care, so then our physicians would also lose the right to defend their care in a trial by jury. Nobody wins under this proposed system, which is why we are opposed to it.”

Tennessee General Assembly Looking at More Tort Reform to Lower Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums

Last year was a banner year for the passage of state-level tort reforms. In fact, the American Tort Reform Society pronounced 2011 to be the “most productive year for the enactment of meaningful state civil justice reforms in recent memory.” All together, more than 30 new tort reform measures were enacted in states across the country, including big legislative victories in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, among others. The intent behind these laws was to reduce the cost of litigation within the state, which would correspond to a lowering of the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums and business liability insurance products. In Tennessee, the general assembly barely took a break to congratulate themselves on their reform successes before plotting an even more aggressive tort reform agenda in 2012, which includes “loser pays” legislation similar to the one Texas enacted last year.

Tort reform generally refers to legislation that changes a state’s existing civil justice system with the intent of reducing the cost of litigation and/or damage compensation. Tort reforms are advocated by the healthcare industry because they improve the actuarial predictability of healthcare-related malpractice lawsuits, allowing medical malpractice insurance companies to lower coverage premiums because they no longer have to carry surplus levels adequate to cover catastrophic, multi-million-dollar jury verdicts. The “loser pays” family of tort reforms is based on the Western European legal conscript where a litigant is compelled to pay the defendant’s legal costs if they turn down a settlement offer and do less well at trial.

In 2011, Tennessee lawmakers passed the Tennessee Civil Justice Act, a major tort reform package and Gov. Bill Haslam’s largest legislative initiative to improve the state’s healthcare and business climates. Key healthcare-related provisions of the Tennessee Civil Justice Act include the definition of two components of compensatory damages: economic and non-economic; placing a cap on non-economic damages at $750,000 per injured plaintiff; and placing a cap on punitive damages, which must be proved by clear and convincing evidence, at two times the compensatory damage or $500,000, whichever is greater.

Tennessee House Speaker Pro Tem Judd Matheny was recently quoted as saying the general assembly has further tort reform plans for 2012, and pointed to the “loser pays” legislation passed in Texas last year as one measure likely to be debated.

In May of 2011, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed into law House Bill 274 (HB 274), a series of reforms intended to expedite the resolution of lawsuits and discourage plaintiffs from filing non-meritorious actions. The legislation adopted rules that let a defendant move for dismissal of a case before discovery is underway. The decision on whether to file a pre-discovery motion to dismiss will be affected by provisions allowing the prevailing party in such a motion to recover costs and reasonable attorney fees from the losing party. Thus, if a plaintiff files a lawsuit without basis in law or fact, and the defendant obtains dismissal, the plaintiff must pay the defendant’s costs and reasonable attorney fees. While this provision is designed to deter frivolous lawsuits, it also aims at deterring frivolous motions to dismiss; a defendant who loses the motion to dismiss will not only have the case proceed, but that defendant will also be liable for paying the plaintiff’s accrued costs and attorney fees.

While not a strict European-style “loser pays” system, the Texas legislation should deter frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits and ease the burden on a crowded court system. Speaker Pro Tem Matheny said that the “loser pays” legislation being discussed in the Tennessee Assembly would specifically address lawsuits that would be perceived as malicious—situations where there are possibly second or third appeals in cases.

More Tennessee Med Mal Tort Reform Possible

Side Note: In 2008, Tennessee passed legislation that required a patient to obtain a “certificate of good faith” for their medical malpractice case in order to proceed with the case. This has dramatically reduced the number of med mal cases filed in the state. Since 2008, the number of med mal lawsuits filed has dropped by 44%. And, even more good news may be on the horizon for Tennessee physicians. Gov. Bill Haslam has proposed further legislation that would place caps on non-economic damages and punitive damages in med mal cases. Under the legislation, non-economic damages, which includes pain and suffering, would be capped at $750,000 and punitive damages would be capped at $500,000. However, the bill does have some exceptions –see the article for further details.

Many theorize that because of the required “certificate of good faith” and if the damage caps take effect, it will become very difficult to sue for med mal in the state of Tennessee. In short, it could become very hard to find a lawyer willing to take a case because of the low levels of potential profits to be made. This is good news for Tennessee physicians.

We applaud Tennessee’s tort reform efforts and hope that this new legislation passes. We here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com will keep you posted. We firmly believe that good tort reform is needed in every state and that physicians benefit by facing fewer med mal lawsuits, and often, lower med mal policy costs –not to mention a less threatening practice environment and a decrease in defensive medicine practices.

Would you like to see if we could lower your Tennessee med mal policy rates? If so, complete our quote request form today.

Malpractice suits face new barriers
Apr. 24, 2011
From www.tennessean.com

Stressed doctor facing lawsuitSavatri Cole had surgery for a broken ankle and ended up losing her foot because of a bone infection.

She and her husband, Jeffrey Cole, believe she got the infection in Southern Hills Medical Center. The surgeon and the hospital contend that the infection occurred because she ripped open surgical wounds by walking on the foot too soon.

See the full article.

Tennessee Med Mal Reform

Side Note: Governor Bill Haslam is working on med mal reform in the state of Tennessee. His proposal, which has been fairly well-received by some and not so well-received by others, proposes caps on med mal damages, which we here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com are in favor of supporting. Governor Haslam’s proposal originally recommended a $500,000 cap on med mal punitive damages and a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages. He recently added an exception to the non-economic med mal damages cap called a “catastrophic loss provision.” In cases of “instances of a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia, hemiplegia, or quadriplegia, amputation, substantial burns and the death of a parent leaving minor children” the damages cap would be raised to $1.25 million.

As expected, there are several groups unhappy with this new proposal. Both AARP and Tennessee Citizen Action, a consumer advocacy group, do not like the proposed limits.

We here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com do not like to see Tennessee physicians paying more than necessary or appropriate for med mal cases, should they be involved in one. And, just as you work hard at your practice taking care of your patients, we work hard to keep your Tennessee liability insurance rates low. We believe that med mal caps in Tennessee would help contain Tennessee physician liability policy rates and discourage frivolous lawsuits. If you would like to see a history of Tennessee med mal rates for the past ten years across several specialties, we have them.

Are you a Tennessee physician looking to lower your Tennessee liability premiums? If so, contact us. We can provide you with a free, no-obligation quote.

APNewsBreak: Haslam offers exceptions to cap on lawsuit damages for catastrophic cases
LUCAS L. JOHNSON II Associated Press
First Posted: March 26, 2011 – 11:32 am
Last Updated: March 26, 2011 – 12:49 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam has offered a compromise on his proposal to limit lawsuit damages, drafting a change to the bill that would exempt catastrophic cases from the caps he wants to impose on most awards.

The Republican governor’s original bill, which is getting a warm reception in the GOP-controlled Legislation, would place a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages — such as pain and emotional suffering — and punitive damages would be limited to $500,000.

Find the Full Article Here