The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has moved forward with changes that may have significant implications for medical liability laws for doctors and other medical professionals, according to health care lawyers in Miami. The ACA has introduced a plan to charge patients based on doctor performance rather than the standard fee-for-service reimbursement plan. But physicians and nurses, along with their malpractice lawyers, are concerned that this change will lead to changes in medical malpractice lawsuits as well.
Last month, lawmakers in Georgia passed a bill that may serve as a hallmark for other states, including Florida, Miami health care lawyers say. The Georgia bill states that any “medical guideline or reimbursement criteria developed or implemented under any federal law cannot be construed as a standard of care to establish a physicians’ negligence in a medical malpractice or product libaility suit.” The bill goes on to state that a physician facing a lawsuit cannot be implicated in the litigation by his compliance with these medical guidelines.
This Georgia bill is modeled after early legislation that has been prepared for legislators across the country by the American Medical Association (AMA). The AMA’s goal is to introduce similar legislation across the country. Also in play is a similar bill introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA). Their bill—the Standard of Care Protection Act—limits the inclusions for standard of care. If passed, the proposed legislation would not permit malpractice plaintiffs to treat a guideline related to the ACA or Medicare and Madicaid statuses as a standard of care. Additionally, the bill states that no provision of the ACA or amendment it makes to federal law could trump state laws governing medical liability.
Health care attorneys in Miami say that the new legislation will prevent medical providers from facing lawsuits based on the national guidelines that govern health care standards. Under the new Affordable Care Act, and similar legislation, “medical decisions [are] left to patients and their doctors.” According to the ACA and the models set forth by the AMA, medical malpractice lawsuits should be backed with evidence of the doctor’s individual performance, rather than the standard guidelines of the state or federal health boards. For example, if a doctor followed the letter of the law regarding patient care, but still failed to produce a favorable result for his patient, he could still face damaging legal action.
Reimbursing patients for the expected care rather than the medical result, has thus far limited legal action to accusations of negligence, but the change to a pay-for-performance plan may soon widen the horizon for malpractice litigation. So far, the laws in Georgia seem to be keeping performance issues in check as reasons for litigation, and health care lawyers in Miami hope that other states will follow with similar legislative measures. Patient safety and expert medical care continues to be the priority for medical professionals, and with the changing laws, doctors can look to their malpractice lawyers for help in protecting themselves.
The experienced health care lawyers at Miami law firm Lubell Rosen are dedicated to staying current with the ever-changing health care litigation, and represent doctors and other medical professionals who are facing malpractice lawsuits.