Medical Liability Reform – Our View

here are a number of bills introduced that attempt to address increasing medical liability insurance premiums, a primary cost driver of health care costs.  House Bill 1992, House Draft 1, the primary bill that the House will move to address this issue, was passed out of the Health committee on January 25th, and the House referred it to the Consumer Protection and Commerce committee on January 31st with opposition from Representatives Scott Nishimoto, Blake Oshiro, Karl Rhoads, Scott Saiki, Maile Shimabukuro, and Alex Sonson, all attorneys.

House Bill 1992, House Draft 1, is modeled on Texas legislation, with a safeguard for catastrophic events, allowing up to $3 million in damages in such cases.  Testimony in the Health committee and in an informational briefing held by the Hawaii Medical Association in December 2007 included such facts as:

· Texas recently enacted tort reform legislation and their premium rates went down between 8 and 16.4%.

· Texas saw 19 insurers return or enter the market.

· The State of Hawaii Medical Claims Conciliation Panel (MCCP) reviews all medical malpractice claims filed in Hawaii, and in 2006, found no negligence in 82% of the cases it reviewed.

· Maui is the only neighbor island with a neurosurgeon.  There are some nights on Oahu where there is no neurosurgeon on-call.

· In Hilo, there is only one orthopedic surgeon on-call.  In Honolulu, there are two, with a third available one day per week.  There were once 22 orthopedic surgeons at Queen’s Hospital.

There is hope for this needed reform.  Consumer Protection and Commerce Chair Robert Herkes is amenable to hearing the bill, and moving it for further discussion.  Judiciary Chair Tommy Waters is on record saying he does not want to hear the bill, but public pressure could change his mind.  His number is 586-9450, and his email is repwaters@capitol.hawaii.govBottom line: It works, and we need it.

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