MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - Mitch Perry

06/08/04

The Medical Malpractice war in Florida is still on.....Last year the state Legislature held several special sessions to try to deal with the contentious issue....This year, groups representing Doctors and Lawyers are trying to go directly to the people to act on these issues.....

Today the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments from attorneys representing the Florida Medical Association , discussing the merits of a proposed Constitutional Amendment that they say will benefit patients in medical malpractice lawsuits.

This follows attorneys for a group that represents patients and victims of malpractice who went before the High Court yesterday to argue for 3 proposed Constitutional Amendments that they say will dramatically improve the quality of health care in Florida.

The Florida Medical Association is denouncing those proposed changes, saying the new laws would drive physicians out of state, reduce resources for emergency medical care,and threaten the ability of Floridians to get medical care at all, if passed.

The First proposed Amendment would bar doctors from practicing if they've had 3 malpractice judgments against them. Jake Bever , Deputy Executive Director of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, says the problem is that doctors can face a claim and even a judgement, simply for a bad 'outcome", not that he or she was ever negligent (roll tape#1 o.q."the outcome would have been any different").

Patti O'Reagan is a Nurse Practitioner, and a member of the group Floridians for Patient Protection...She explains the need for that Amendment (roll tape#2 o.q. "profitably for themselves")

The 2nd issue would require doctors to charge every patient the same fee for the same service.

But Jake Bever from the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, said this Amendment isn't needed, because most emergency doctor fees are set by Medicaid, Medicare, and Managed Care Companies, so most charges are already capped (roll tape# 3 o.q." out of the state even more")

And the 3rd issue that the Trial Lawyer supported group, Floridians for Patient Protection, is hoping to get on the ballot is known as the "patient's right to know amendment"...

That would give patients the right to review records of "adverse medical incidents" by doctors or health care facilities.

Patti O'Reagan from Floridians For Patient Protection says that the data that her group would like to make public is already to state officials, but is generally not accessible to patients (roll tape#4 o.q. "hopefully")

Meanwhile, Florida Doctors are trying to get their own amendment on the November Ballot......The goes right after Attorneys Fees in Medical Malpractice Cases...

Specifically, the Constitutional Amendment would require patients to receive 70 percent of the first $250,000 in a malpractice award and 90 percent of any amount above that, minus costs. Currently, patients get about 60 percent of the first $1 million, 70 percent of the second million and 80 percent of the rest. Again, Jake Bever from the Florida College of Emergency Physicians (roll tape#3 O.Q. "and their families")

As of Friday, the lawyers' political action committee -- Floridians for Patient Protection -- had collected more than 556,000 signatures to get the measures on the ballot. They must get 488,000 signatures of registered voters verified by the state elections office to get on the ballot.

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