• Legal protection for doctors against ACA-inspired lawsuits

    The passage of the Georgia bill, which at this article’s deadline was expected to be signed by Gov. Nathan Deal by the end of April, came as a federal version of the legislation was being reintroduced in Congress. The Standard of Care Protection Act would prohibit health system reform provisions from being construed to establish a standard or duty of care owed by a health professional to a patient in any liability case. A similar version of the bill died in committee at the end of the last Congress.

    The Standard of Care Protection Act would ensure that federal laws do not change the way health care professionals practice medicine or treat patients through the threat of liability, said Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.), the bill’s chief sponsor.

    “This legislation provides that lawsuits cannot be brought against health care providers based simply on whether [they] followed national guidelines created by the health care law,” Dr. Gingrey stated in an email. “This bill reinforces my belief that medical decisions must be made between patients and their doctors. The practice of medicine is not one-size-fits-all. It must be protected from policies or rules that may threaten a physician’s ability to treat patients according to their specific needs.”

    More here.


    • Interesting stuff.

      I did scratch my head on this one though:

      “Another potential legal risk could come from the ACA’s hospital value-based purchasing program. Those provisions authorize payment adjustments for certain hospitals based on designated health care performance criteria. Whether a hospital-based physician met such criteria easily could be raised in a medical negligence lawsuit to challenge the doctor’s credibility, Downs said.”

      I am having difficulty making the connection between individual action and metrics encompassing an entire hospital. Even as I read the list at the bottom–shared savings, readmits, etc., validity questionable.


    • Kind of gets us back to the safe harbor idea, which I think is pretty sound. As much as we like to say that decisions need to be individualized, which is true, it is also true that most patients really arent so much different than others that guidelines should be ignored. Guidelines for procedures, think something like the central line protocol, rarely need to be altered. However, we all know bad outcomes can happen even if you do everything correctly. Safe harbors would eliminate suits in those situations.


    • The law works both ways: compliance with the federal standard will not shield the physician from liability for negligence. Be careful what you ask for. By making it double edged, I suspect it will actually hurt more physicians accused of negligence than help. Indeed, if “evidenced based medicine” isn’t a shield, then the standard of care will be a moving target, making malpractice litigation that much less predictable and encouraging more claims against physicians.

    • Robert is exactly right. Notice how the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association is actually in FAVOR of this bill. The reason why = more uncertainly = more pulling the wool over the eyes of a gullible jury who doesnt know what they are doing.