By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, April 14, Alabama State Senators Trip Pittman (R-Montrose) introduced a proposal to rein in healthcare costs in Alabama by making it much harder for persons claiming medical malpractice to collect large judgements.
Since 2010 the cost of maintaining Alabama Medicaid benefits has doubled. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) is claiming that Medicaid will need $85 million in fiscal year 2017 just to maintain the same level of services that it delivers now. Part of what is driving health care costs up is Obamacare; but much of medical inflation is due to excessive jury verdicts often with debatable evidence of actual culpability. This leads to higher malpractice insurance….a cost which is passed on to consumers.
Supporters of the bill, Senate Bill 413, claim that the “Patient Compensation Act” would bring in as much as $2.7 billion to the state treasury over the next decade by eliminating wasteful, defensive medicine.
Supporters claim that the “Patient Compensation Act” would eliminate defensive medicine by replacing the state’s medical malpractice system with a no-blame, administrative model that mirrors a worker’s compensation system.
“Under existing law, if a physician or other health care practitioner injures a patient because he or she has failed to follow the governing standard of care in the applicable area of medicine, the patient can bring an action against the physician or health care practitioner for medical malpractice. This bill would establish a Patient Compensation System to be administered by the Alabama Department of Public Health to provide for a mandatory alternative administrative procedure to address medical malpractice claims by a panel of physicians and medical experts to determine the payment of damages related to medical injuries. This bill would establish a Patient Compensation Board to govern the system and to approve a schedule of compensation for confirmed medical injuries. On or after January 1, 2017, this bill would require a person to submit an application with the Patient Compensation System in order to obtain compensation for a medical injury. This bill would provide that, upon a finding by the Office of Medical Review within the system of prima facie evidence that an application establishes a medical injury, a health care practitioner is afforded the opportunity to support or oppose the application, and contested applications are referred to an Independent Medical Review Panel for a determination of whether a medical injury exists. If it is determined that a medical injury occurred, the applicant shall be compensated according to the adopted schedule of compensation for medical injuries. This bill would require health care practitioners to pay an annual contribution amount based upon the practitioner’s type of practice, from which compensation for medical injuries would be paid by the Office of Compensation, created within the system. This bill would also provide for the appeal of final determinations made in the system to the circuit court.”
BioScience Valuation, a healthcare economics firm, estimates defensive medicine costs Alabama taxpayers $1.3 billion in Medicaid and $106 million in state health insurance plans in 2015.
The executive director of the non-profit group: Patients for Fair Compensation Wayne Oliver said, “We congratulate these three lawmakers on a bold proposal that will control healthcare costs from crippling the state budget. Defensive medicine is one of the reasons healthcare is unaffordable for individuals and businesses. It is what is driving up healthcare costs in America.”
Oliver said, “This state-based idea will do what Obamacare failed to do – reduce healthcare costs for individuals and taxpayers. At the same time it will make access to justice a reality for all patients, not just a few. It’s truly a win for all involved.”
SB413 is awaiting action in the Senate Health Committee.