April 1, 2003 Legislation





Maryland is debating the malpractice issue.  This is coupled with how the state disciplines physicians.  The medical review board is scheduled to sunset June 30.  If there is no compromise, it will be gone completely.  The problem is the change is the standard to be used to discipline physicians that is now "clear and convincing" to "preponderance".  Most medical boards use the preponderance standard.  In Maryland, Lawyers are judged by the higher standard and the physicians want to be judged by the same standard as their brethren on the bench.  

The Texas House approved the first of three major medical bills.  This one allows the Medical Board to discipline physicians.  The physician fees would be raised so more staff could be hired.  If the Board believes the physician is a "reasonable harm to patients" by virtue of bad care, sexual misconduct or drug abuse, they can immediately suspend the physician fro practice.  The Board would use experts to  look at cases and advise the Board.  The physicians would be forbidden from accepting any inducement for prescribing drugs. The second part is tort reform including a cap on noneconomic damages.  The third part is a constitutional amendment legalizing the noneconomic caps in all law suits, not just medical.   

The California Medical Board has suspended the license of a Oxnard physician, Dr. Michael Huff.  This is due to chronic overprescribing of addictive narcotics.  At the same time the schizoid Board is investigating a doctor in northern California for under treatment of pain.        Top


The US Senate would limit noneconomic damages to $500,000 and $2 million for permanent disability or disfigurement.  State laws with lower limits would not be affected.  This would not limit damages against HMOs and drug companies.

The only Senate Democrat supporting the bill has dropped her support. Sen. Feinstein has withdrawn her support due to the AMA being against the bill.  Her former husband was a neurosurgeon.

The Florida House is prepared to pass a malpractice reform bill with the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages.  The Senate did not go along with the House. Governor Bush has stated there will be no recess for the legislature until a worker's compensation and a medical malpractice bill is passed.   

The Florida Senate Insurance Committee wants a 20% rollback on malpractice liability premiums.  The Senate Long Term Care Committee passed a bill giving Emergency Room physicians immunity from liability as sovereign immunity.  This caps the damage at $100,000 for hospitals and physicians performing emergency care.

Orlando is soon to be without a trauma center since the neurosurgeons are foregoing the Center.  The County Chair is attempting to get the physicians to continue to work by asking the legislature to to give sovereign immunity to all trauma surgeons.  This would not be legal, but they could use the standard of the emergency physicians or reckless disregard. 

The Washington state Senate voted to limit the noneconomic damages to $250,000.  It passed by a 30-19 majority.  In 1986, the Washington Supreme Court vetoed the same bill.      

The New Jersey Senate has passed a bill to cover jury awards in some cases,  the bill has no financial caps for non-economic damages.  The House said the bill will not pass there.  

In West Virginia  the long awaited malpractice bill has cleared both houses and is on the way to the Governor.  The deal is $250,000 for noneconomic damages, $500,000 for wrongful death or permanent disability and $500,000 for trauma cases where care was rendered in good faith.  Also the joint and several liability was cut to one's own percentage of the fault and collateral sources would be revealed.  Also there will be tax credits over two years of 10% for those who pay between $30,000 and $70,000 with a 20% credit for those who pay more than $70,000.  There will also be established a physicians mutual insurance company capitalized by $24 million of tobacco funds, $1000 from all practicing physicians outside of state institutions and $2500 from all private insurers in the state.      Top


Texas is attempting not to pay for Viagra and other lifestyle drugs for their Medicaid patient.  However, if the don't pay they will lose their Federal funding drug reimbursement repays.  Viagra costs the state $2.5 million.          Top


DISCLAIMER: Although this article is updated periodically, it reflects the author's point of view at the time of publication. Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented.