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

May 28, 2020

Health Care, Manufacturing, and Business Advocates Call for COVID-19 Liability Protections for “Smart Restart”

Today, HAP President and CEO Andy Carter joined members of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform for a virtual press conference to call on the Governor and the General Assembly to protect hospitals, health care providers, manufacturers, and businesses from meritless lawsuits during Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 disaster declaration and as the state gradually reopens.

May 08, 2020

Patient Safety Authority Annual Report Highlights Progress in Patient Safety

Pennsylvania’s Patient Safety Authority (PSA) has released its 2019 Annual Report. The report highlights activities of the PSA, including its September 2019-launched quarterly peer-reviewed journal, Patient Safety. It also includes an analysis of patient safety events reported into the Pennsylvania patient safety reporting system (PA-PSRS), a secure database that collects health care facility data on “serious events” and “incidents.”

May 07, 2020

News Release: HAP Statement: Governor’s Medical Liability Executive Order Should Protect Hospitals

Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf signed an Executive Order to provide medical liability protections for health care providers during the COVID-19 crisis. The order protects individual, licensed medical providers—including physicians, nurses, and other health care workers—from lawsuits that arise from providing emergency services related to COVID-19. The order does not extend to Pennsylvania’s hospitals.

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