Legislative Update

The Tennessee General Assembly has a myraid of tort “deform” bills pending in the medical malpractice field this year. Generally speaking, the bills want to cap damages on meritorious cases, limit attorney’s fees for lawyers who represent patients, cut off subrogation interests, impose periodic payments, etc.

The newest example of outrageous conduct is an attempt by the doctors to let the state medical board establish criteria for expert witnesses. To read the bill, click here, click on “Legislation” and enter House Bill number 1011.

The legislation would require the expert to sign the guidelines – or face cross-examination on the failure to sign them. It would give the state medical board the right to publish additional rules – perhaps even subjecting the expert to displinary action if the expert has been found by the board to given testimony with which it did not agree. This is witness intimidation, nothing more, nothing less.

This legislation is just plain wrong. We already have the strictest legislation is the country on this issue, and the idea that doctors will be permitted to set further standards on their own should be offensive to everyone.

The evidence is clear that the malpractice reforms the doctors seek do not reduce insurance rates. I think the doctors are just angry – angry about health insurance reimbursements, angry about Medicare, angry about Tenncare, angry about competition from other specialists, etc. Trying to pass anti-patient legislation is a way to blow off steam – a way doctors can feel that they have exerted control over their practice. Most feel that it won’t hurt their own patients because they do not think they will make an error that hurts their patients.

You would think that doctors would ask some hard questions of their insurance company? How will these “reforms” affect our insurance rates? Why don’t we raise rates on doctors with multiple paid claims? Why are urban rates the same as rural rates? These questions are not asked because the doctors own their own insurance company. That is right, most Tennessee doctors pay premiums to themselves.

I will keep you updated on this fight. There is a major hearing on Thursday the 7th.