March 15, 2005 Legislation






Legislation was introduced into Congress to allow the retired federal employees, including retired military, to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars.  This makes no sense.  The military already has the VA boondoggle and the retired federal employees are namely retired workers like everybody else.  They should not be given any special treatment. It's bad enough that the working federal employees get to pay with pre tax dollars.   

Ohio has proposed a bill that would limit med mal cases to arbitration instead of the courts.  The decision could be challenged in the courts but the arbitration decision would be admissible.

In a proposed bill that is predetermined to go nowhere, Rep. Stark and Jesse Jackson and co-sponsored by 27 other members of the lower house have started a constitutional amendment that states " All persons shall enjoy the right to healthcare of equal high quality".  This requires a 2/3 vote of both houses and confirmation by 3/4 of the states.  Although it is laudable, it is also impractical as their is not enough money.    

The Washington state legislature passed a bill creating parity between mental health coverage and regular health coverage in a five year period.  the Democratic Governor is expected to sign the bill. The bill excludes Medicaid and employers with 50 or less employees as well as individuals.  The hospital association was pro bill since more people will now have insurance and the hospitals will be paid. 

After the Missouri House passed a bill to reform the med mal situation , the Senate passed one that is different.  These must now be reconciled.  The House had a cap of $250,000 on non economic damages.  The Senate bill is $350,000.  Both bills allow punitive damages but with no limits in the Senate bill and limits in the House bill.  Both version took the forum shopping away and that an expert must be on board prior to trial.

 In Maryland, the Senate has rejected any tinkering with the watered down bill on med mal reform passed during the special session.        Top 


The South Carolina Medical Board has overhauled it discipline policies.  The new policy allows any discipline to be disclosed to the public but also allows this to be stopped by an appeal to an administrative judge.  The law now is that all is secret until final.  The policy also bans physicians who have been publicly reprimanded in other states from testifying in a medical malpractice trial in the state for five years.  This now needs to be approved by the state legislature before taking effect. 

In Washington, the physicians are due a refund from Physician Insurance, a med mal insurer.  The state has ordered a refund of of $1.3 million to the physicians for overcharges by the company.  The company agrees and states they made a mistake in their filing.           Top


The Wisconsin legislature is going away from a ban on hospital construction.  They are leaning to competition and now protecting turf.  The hospitals who testified against the construction ban were afraid that if enacted it may lead to more hospital regulation.  Other hospitals that would be impacted by the new contraction stated they favored a 18-24 month moratorium so the legislature could consider the consequences.  The legislature hearing a split voice from the hospital community will decide against the moratorium.   

There are new visa requirements to enter and work in the US.  The new laws mandate a three year wait for the nurses from the Philippines to get their green cards.  In the old days the nurses could start working while waiting for the cards to be processed.  California is the largest importer of Filipino nurses and is the hardest hit just at the time when the ill though out ratios are being tightened. California already ranks next to last in the number of registered nurses per capita in the country.

Speaking of the low amount of nurses in California, the Governor has re-issued the emergency order to delay the implementation of the 1:5 nursing ratio but now for an additional year, January 2008.  This will force the militant nurses union back to court for another ruling.  In the meantime the 1:5 law that was supposed to hit this past January will continue to be delayed. The original order of the court is being appealed and the new order will make sure the 1:5 will not be in effect until the appeal is heard.  The judge subsequently reinstated her order on the 1:5 ratio and ordered it into effect immediately.  The State will continue to appeal the decision and continue to ask that the order be stayed until the appeal is heard.  Currently very few hospitals outside of Kaiser are in compliance with the new ratios.

The Pennsylvania Hospitals Association must be crying in their beer.  The legislature has just come into the 21st century and authorized laproscopic surgery to be performed as an outpatient in ambulatory surgical centers.        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.