Monday, April 6, 2020

According to Tampa Bay Times, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, is sponsor of a bill that limits medical liability in Florida. He said reforms are needed to decrease the use of defensive medicine and attract quality physicians.

Some think the Florida Legislature already makes it hard to file lawsuits against doctors. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar said:  "I bring this bill not to limit access to courts, not to limit remedies, but to make sure that Florida is a place that is fair in the litigation process for physicians.''  The bill would limit lawsuits by tightening the standards for expert witnesses, make it more difficult to prove negligence when physicians are charged with failing to order proper diagnostic tests, and shield hospitals from liability if physicians were independent contractors.

The bill may spare hospitals and nursing homes from more lawsuits.  The bill will hurt patients if hospitals sign contracts with independent doctors to escape liability. Gaetz acknowledged that since state law lets doctors to go without insurance, victims could not recover damages if suing a doctor would be "like being injured by a poor person." However, if the hospital didn't cause the injury, "one should not be able to sue them just because they happen to have assets."

Holding health care providers and physicians accountable for negligence has become secondary to a push to stabilize health care costs this legislative session.  Florida lawmakers are in the process of implementing the federal health care law. Hospitals, physicians, and medical facilities are requesting limits on liability. Limits on liability will help attract physicians and lower costs.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, business groups funded by the health care industry, announced in March 2013 support of accepting federal dollars for Medicaid expansion, if certain conditions were met, including medical liability and tort reform.

The Florida Justice Association, which represents trial lawyers, questions the need for the proposed reforms. In the past 10 years, medical malpractice insurance costs have declined, the number of physicians practicing in Florida has gone up by 30 percent, and cases are down 50 percent.

Bob White, president of First Professional Insurance Company, Florida’s largest medical liability insurer, acknowledged in the past six years, the cost of medical liability insurance in Florida declined 36 percent.

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