Tag Archives: malpractice reform

Campaign wants some immunity for docs who apologize

According to my mother, it sometimes isn’t enough to just say you’re sorry. In The Kansas City Star, Alan Bavley writes that, apparently, some physicians disagree. In particular, an organization called “Sorry Works!” thinks that apologies are powerful enough that they should provide doctors with immunity from some malpractice and disclosure rules. And, he writes, they’re campaigning to make it official.screen-shot-2012-05-22-at-25535-pm

…about five years ago, Sorry Works! changed from a coalition of doctors, lawyers, insurers and patient advocates. Now it’s a commercial consulting firm. Founder Doug Wojcieszak offers training to hospitals and doctors. And he has started crusading for new immunity for doctors who apologize.

According to Bavley, “Wojcieszak wants the (National Practitioner Data Bank) bank to keep malpractice payments secret in many cases when doctors make apologies and disclosures. Further, he wants doctors shielded from medical board discipline on these cases.”

Consumer’s Union and patient safety organizations have come out against the Sorry Works! campaign because, as Bavley writes, “proposal would give doctors who were going to settle a suit anyway an incentive to apologize just to keep it off their record.”

Under Sorry Works! three strikes rules, the vast majority of doctors (who face one or fewer malpractice suits during their career) would be able to stay clear of the data bank entirely, thus denying the public and medical boards access to crucial information that’s currently being made public.

William Heisel at ReportingOnHealth.org explains why Consumer’s Union and Robert Oshel, the designer of the National Practitioner Data Bank’s Public Use File are not in favor of the campaign .

Parikh: Malpractice reform’s no cost-cutter

Rahul Parikh, M.D., writing on Salon.com, talks about his own tendencies toward defensive medicine and debunks the idea that malpractice suits are driving up costs and pushing doctors toward defensive medicine.

Photo by Maggie Osterberg via Flickr.

In particular, Parikh targets a Wall Street Journal opinion piece penned by three past AMA presidents. The trio attacks the public option and presses instead for malpractice reform.

Parikh responds:

Their refrain is familiar to anybody following the healthcare reform debate. The only problem is that it’s not true. There’s nothing “sure or quick” about changing medical liability laws that will improve healthcare or its costs. Defensive medicine adds very little to healthcare’s price tag, and rising malpractice premiums have had very little impact on access to care.

He then tackles, point by point, the most common arguments advanced by proponents of malpractice reform.

Calif. malpractice cap: Model or cautionary tale?

The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Victoria Colliver reports on how a discussion of a health reform-related push for medical malpractice reform can learn from California’s 34-year old law capping malpractice awards at $250,000.

First, the case against the cap: It’s too small (1975’s $250,000 is equal to about a million of today’s dollars) to make malpractice suits worth a lawyer’s while.

Critics object to the fact the $250,000 cap hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in 34 years . They also argue that because the law allows unlimited awards for economic losses, such as lost wages and ongoing medical costs, it discriminates against children and seniors, who have limited earnings if any, as well as against the families of those who died and did not have high medical costs.

“It’s economic suicide for a medical malpractice lawyer in the state of California to undertake too many or any cases that are capped at just 250,000,” said Erik Peterson, a San Francisco medical malpractice attorney who agreed to take on the Volkmuth’s case, even at a loss.

inflation1 Cap proponents say the law helps keep costs down and to attract physicians to the state.

Supporters say the law has resulted in improved access to care for patients because it has persuaded doctors to stay in California without fear of skyrocketing insurance premiums.

Lisa Maas, executive director of Californians Allied for Patient Protection, pointed to her group’s research, which shows the average annual premium for a specialist in obstetrics and gynecology in Los Angeles was about $90,000 last year, compared to nearly $195,000 a year for the same specialist in Nassau and Suffolk counties of New York, a state without medical malpractice reforms.

Malpractice reform joins health system debate

Erica Werner of The Associated Press reports that Ezekiel Emanuel, a key adviser on health issues to President Obama and brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, offered some hints recently about the role of malpractice lawsuit reform in the debate over changes to the country’s health care system.

Ezekiel Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel

At a meeting of the American Medical Association, Ezekiel Emanuel said:

“I’m not going to give you any details because I can’t. I just can tell you I’ve been thinking long and hard about that,” Emanuel, an oncologist and the brother of White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, told the doctors when asked about malpractice lawsuit reform. “It hasn’t gone unnoticed. So stay tuned.”

Mary Ann Geier, organizer of Health Camp Philadelphia, posted on Twitter that she wonders what the hidden agenda is and whether it might not be incompatible with true reform. She says it’s something the average person can’t figure out. Reporters, what can you tell us?

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has proposed developing “alternate litigation models,” similar to proposals offered by Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., says malpractice reforms are key to overhauling the health care system.

“I think it’s an essential piece for there to be enduring reform, reform that will stick and will get a significant bipartisan vote in the United States Senate,” Wyden said.

Perhaps Wyden will expand on those comments when he speaks at Health Journalism 2009 on April 17.