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Medical Liability Reform

The Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act (H.R. 4106), introduced in the House by Reps. Andy Barr (R-KY) and Ami Bera (D-CA), combines elements of pretrial screening panels and safe harbors for adhering to clinical practice guidelines to provide liability protections, promote evidence-based medicine, and improve patient safety. This legislation is a byproduct of the College’s Medical Liability Reform Summit in October 2012. The College will be working with the bill’s sponsors to make refinements and improvements to the legislation prior to reintroduction in the 114th Congress in 2015.

In addition, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) Repeal Act includes a provision that would specify that no standard or guideline in Medicare, Medicaid, or the Affordable Care Act may be used to establish the standard of care that a health care professional must provide to a patient. The goal is to prevent the courts from determining negligence solely on the basis of whether a physician adhered strictly to a federal guideline. Its passage is tied to the fate of the SGR Repeal Act.

There has been little effort by Congress to reintroduce the traditional liability reform bill based on California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) law, long championed by the College. Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-GA), the bill’s champion, is currently engaged in a run for the open Georgia Senate seat. In addition, there has been a growing opinion among House Republicans that this is a state issue and should be resolved at the state level.

Surgeons and Medical Liability: A Guide to Understanding Medical Liability Reform

Medical liability in the U.S. is criticized as being costly, inefficient, and inconsistent. This broken system is failing both doctors and patients alike. For more than 40 years, numerous reform efforts have failed to pass legislation that contains costs, stabilizes liability insurance premiums, and meaningfully promotes patient safety. As a result, a number of alternative reform propositions, very different from traditional tort reform, are currently being considered for health system implementation in state and federal legislation. The ACS has developed this primer to inform ACS Fellows about the history of medical liability as well as alternative, innovative reform approaches to the status quo of tort law in the U.S.

Download Surgeons and Medical Liability Reform: A Guide to Understanding Medical Liability Reform

Saving Lives, Saving Costs

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) supports the Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act (H.R. 4106), legislation that would take an innovative approach to address the nation’s broken liability system, and will help to increase the practice of evidence-based health care, improve patient safety, and reduce defensive medicine. Read the ACS letter of support for H.R. 4106.

Standard of Care Protection Act

On July 22, 2013, the ACS sent a letter of support for the Standard of Care Protection Act that would specify that no standard or guideline in Medicare, Medicaid, or the Affordable Care Act may be used to establish the standard of care that a health care professional must provide to a patient. This legislation would prevent the courts from determining negligence solely on the basis of whether a physician adhered strictly to a federal guideline.The bill is widely supported by the physician community and its provisions are included in legislation that Congress currently is considering to reform the Medicare physician payment system.

Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act

ACS sent letters of support to the House and Senate about the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).

External Resources

ACS Secures GAO Study on Trauma

The U.S. must employ current trauma and EMS systems of care in order to respond to deadly natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as terrorist attacks, chemical spills, and other health care emergencies. The nation’s existing trauma and emergency medical systems are designed to respond quickly and efficiently to deliver seriously injured individuals to the appropriate trauma center hospital within the “golden hour”—the time period when medical intervention is most effective in saving lives and saving function. Unfortunately, the emergency healthcare system in America is in crisis. Several reports have confirmed that while many states have made great strides in developing effective trauma care systems, significant gaps in our trauma and emergency healthcare delivery systems still exist. While these reports highlight the problem, there has not been a study examining the details of those gaps in care and how our current healthcare delivery systems could handle the surge capacity associated with a public health emergency or mass-casualty event without notice. In January, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) submitted a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting an assessment of the country’s current Trauma-EMS components.

Contact: Matt Coffron