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Medical Liability

Medical liability insurance provides coverage to physicians and other medical professionals for liability that arises from disputed services that result in a patient’s injury or death. Pennsylvania requires this insurance coverage, which covers expenses associated with defending and settling medical liability suits.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, national estimates of medical liability system costs—including settlements, legal and administrative costs, and defensive medicine—range from $55.6 billion annually to $200 billion. 

In response to longstanding concerns about Pennsylvania’s legal climate, HAP has joined with the state’s leading business and medical voices to form the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform (PCCJR). The PCCJR mission is to improve the state’s overall legal liability system to help attract and retain health care providers and ensure access to health services.

State

Venue Reform

During late 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Civil Procedural Rules Committee proposed reversing a 17-year-old rule that prevents venue shopping in medical liability cases. Venue shopping allows personal injury lawyers to move medical liability claims from the counties where the claims are filed, to counties that have a history of awarding higher payouts to plaintiffs. HAP opposes the proposed change. The Supreme Court has delayed its decision until completion of a study about venue, as requested through Senate Resolution 20 (Senator Baker, R-Luzerne). The report is due January 2020.

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Informed Consent

During 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that health care facilities and physicians could not use qualified practitioners in the informed consent process. Qualified staff can no longer assist with providing information, answering questions, or following up with patients prior to surgical procedures. The court ruling is based upon a strict, interpretation of the state’s 2002 Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCare) Act. HAP supports House Bill 1580 and Senate Bill 761, which modernize the MCARE Act to align with team-based health care.

Statute of Repose

During November 2019, in a 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held that a seven-year statute of repose for medical malpractice, was unconstitutional. The statute was passed as part of a 2002 law designed to improve access to health care. The majority found the statute of repose violated the right of access to the courts and had no substantial relationship to the legislative goal of controlling malpractice insurance costs and premiums. HAP is monitoring the impact of the ruling.

Federal

At the federal level, HAP has supported comprehensive liability reform modeled after California’s successful Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA). That legal reform framework ensures fair and efficient compensation for injured patients, improves communications between patients and health care providers, and ensures affordable and accessible liability insurance.

HAP also supports targeted approaches to liability reform such as federal legislation to protect access to emergency services by extending liability protections to emergency department and on-call physicians who are providing medical services pursuant to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). This is the same liability coverage currently offered to health professionals who provide care at Community Health Centers and offer Medicaid services at free clinics.

HAP Contacts

For more information, contact Warren Kampf, senior vice president, advocacy and external affairs; Laura Stevens Kent, senior vice president, strategic integration; or Stephanie Watkins, vice president, state legislative advocacy. For media inquiries, contact Rachel Moore, director, media relations.

HAP News

January 22, 2020

Health Care Remains a Top Priority Among Americans

A recent Gallop poll of American adults indicates that health care remains a top-of-mind issue among Americans and will, once again, be a consideration in the upcoming Presidential election. Of the poll responses, 35 percent of adults ranked health care extremely important, and 81 percent ranked health care as either extremely important or very important.

January 17, 2020

HAP Calls for Certainty, Urges Supreme Court to Review ACA Case

In a “friend of the court” brief, HAP joined state hospital associations from around the country in urging the Supreme Court to provide “prompt and final resolution” of questions raised by the appeals court decision that held the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate unconstitutional.

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