February 2004 Bulletin

In Brief

California
A federal court temporarily blocked a five percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates for fee-for-service providers that would have gone into effect Jan. 1, 2004. The court granted a preliminary injunction against the state, ruling that California did not take into consideration the effect that the cuts would have on Medicaid beneficiaries. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.cmanet.org

Connecticut
A legislative committee report recommended that the legislature not enact a cap on non-economic damages. Instead, the report suggested setting up an emergency fund to help doctors in high-risk specialties pay their insurance premiums. For more information, visit Web site: http://csms.org/content/showpage.asp?page=lu3

Maryland
A new coalition was created that will lobby for legislation to decrease the cap on non-economic damages from $635,000 to $350,000 or $250,000. The coalition hired the former state insurance commissioner to lobby on its behalf in Annapolis. The trial lawyers are raising more than $1 million to lobby against the proposal. Gov. Robert Ehrlich (R) has indicated that reforming the medical liability laws is a top priority. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.medchi.org/micra/index.asp

Oklahoma
Oklahoma recently approved increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates. Reimbursement for physician evaluation and management codes will increase from 72 percent of the Medicare rate to 90 percent of the Medicare rate. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.osmaonline.org/

Oregon
The Oregon Medical Association has raised more than $500,000 to mount a ballot measure to cap non-economic damages in medical liability claims at $500,000. The association estimates that at least $4 million will be needed to sustain the campaign until the Nov. 4, 2004 election. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.theoma.org

Pennsylvania
A new report from Tillinghast-Towers Perrin found that medical liability claims in Pennsylvania cost every person in the state between $103 and $124 versus the national average of $85.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed a bill in December to fully abate the premiums for the excess compensation fund (known as MCARE) for certain providers in 2003 and 2004. The abatement will be 100 percent for high-risk specialties, such as orthopaedics. To receive the abatement, the physician must pledge to stay in Pennsylvania for at least one year. The abatements will be financed by an increase in the cigarette tax.

Texas
After major reform of the workers’ compensation system led to increased hassles and decreased reimbursements, the number of physicians registered to treat workers’ comp patients decreased from 30,000 to 13,000. In December, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) created a select legislative committee to consider a major overhaul of the entire workers’ compensation system in Texas. According to media reports, the Committee will “consider issues including medical fee guidelines, therapeutic and pharmaceutical care, streamlining the claims process, and the creation of a provider network like businesses use for health care plans.” For more information, visit Web site: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/LtGov/Press.htm

Washington
Gov. Gary Locke (D) recently proposed appropriating $10 million to create a patients’ compensation fund. Physicians, however, are telling the legislature that the only remedy they will accept is the creation of a cap on non-economic damages.

A statewide poll in Washington found that 72 percent of voters supports limiting non-economic damage awards, but only 62 percent support a cap as low as $250,000. The poll also found that 79 percent of voters would be more likely to vote against a candidate who received support from personal injury lawyers. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.wsma.org/tort_coverage.html

Wyoming
Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) and the Wyoming Healthcare Commission endorsed a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to cap non-economic damages in medical liability lawsuits. If the legislature passes the amendment it would go before the state’s voters in November 2004 for their ratification. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.wyomed.org/pli_pubhome.htm


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