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House Judiciary discusses medical malpractice claim overhaul

Arek Sarkissian, 03/17/2014 - 07:28 PM

A bill would put medical malpractice claims through an administrative process meant to cut down on lengthy lawsuits was discussed by the House Judiciary Committee. Members of the medical community spoke against it. 

HB 739, by Rep. Jason BrodeurR-Sanford, would require patients hurt by a medical procedure to file a claim for benefits, which would be reviewed by an independent board. Results from the board will determine if a patient is due compensation and any appeals would be heard by an administrative judge.

“All that I ask that we do today is that we look at the data and see that the system is not good,” Brodeur said. “It’s broken.”

Brodeur said an overhaul of the malpractice system would lead to lower medical costs for Florida businesses.

“And that would lead to more jobs,” he said.

Those in the audience who oppose the bill cited an opinion last week released by the Florida Supreme Court that found caps on malpractice case awards to be unconstitutional. Florida Justice Reform Institute President William Large said in light of the high court ruling Brodeur’s proposed plan also would be considered unconstitutional.

“The bottom line is, our tort system needs to be reformed,” Large told the panel. “But it does not need to be eliminated.”

Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Okeechobee, who also is an emergency room physician, said the bill would cut down on the use of defensive medicine in his field. Due to threats of malpractice cases, many doctors are inclined to prescribe extra tests and exploratory procedures that could actually put a patient at risk. For instance, a CT-Scan could expose someone to far more radiation than a chest X-ray, Pigman said.

Jeff Scott, of the Florida Medical Association, said Brodeur’s proposal would only create an “Explosion of claims,” and that it would make the state an unattractive to doctors.

“If we put up a sign that says if you’re a physician you’re not going to get sued, again, I think that keeps them in the state,” Brodeur said.

There was no vote taken during the meeting and it has not yet been assigned to another committee.  

Contact reporter Arek Sarkissian at [email protected]

http://www.thefloridacurrent.com/article.cfm?id=36867410