The new draft regulations are published for HR 1215 - Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017

The bill is designed to protect providers from superfluous lawsuits and unnecessary costs and would preempt state laws with higher limits on damages or no limits at all. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, the measure would allegedly save taxpayers $50 billion over the next 10 years.

Praised by American Medical Association President, Dr. David Barbe, "...redirecting healthcare spending from defensive medicine, additional dollars can go to patient care, safety and quality improvements, and to health information technology systems that would help improve care and outcomes.”  I guess he assumes that dollars won't be reduced, just transferred into a different bucket.  I believe that if malpractice premiums and defense costs are lowered, prices can also eventually drop. Whether they will or not is a different matter entirely.

According to Doctors Company, a major malpractice insurer, the rate of malpractice has been halved since 2003. Tort reform has been on the mind of newly-appointed HHS Secretary Tom Price for 20 years ( I believe he is an orthopedic surgeon by profession, so that's no surprise. President Trump's administration is in favor of such legislation. His fiscal year 2018 budget proposal includes a provision that would alter the collateral source rule to allow evidence of a plaintiff’s income from other sources to be introduced at trial.

In addition to H.R. 1215, three other tort reform bills are under review. H.R. 720, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, would discourage the filing of frivolous claims by requiring mandatory sanctions on those who do and eliminating the ability of plaintiffs and their lawyers to avoid sanctions by withdrawing claims after a motion to sanction.  This might mitigate lawsuits like one I am aware of that penalized an obstetrician for failure to deliver care of the "highest quality" for a newborn Apgar score of 9/9 rather than a 10/10.

Another bill, the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, H.R. 985, would make it more difficult for plaintiffs’ attorneys to file class action lawsuits by requiring that all claimants in the class experienced the same type and degree of injury.

Finally, the Innocent Party Protection Act, H.R. 725, would let defendants sued in state courts remove the case to the federal level if the plaintiff and defendant are from different states and more than $75,000 in damages is on the line.

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Dr. Maria K. Todd is a seasoned professional in managed care contracting and risk sharing arrangements for hospitals ASCs, IPAs, PHOs, MSOs ACOs and Co-ops. She works with executives, managers, analysts, and finance officers who have the daunting task of negotiating contracts for medical services. She leads C-Suite executives and reimbursement managers through in-depth examinations of their go-forward risk sharing and reimbursement strategies and coaches them in key areas such as pay-for-performance initiatives, reimbursement methods, contract law basics, and negotiating strategies.   Contact her at 800.727.4160 or via email and follow her on LinkedIn.

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