June 2003 Bulletin

States Report

In Brief


H.B. 1232 was signed into law and states that admissions of fault, apology, compassion or grief by a physician are not admissible in a liability action. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.leg.state.co.us .


When the regular session ended at the beginning of May, the House and Senate could not come to agreement on tort reform. The House and Governor Jeb Bush were pushing for a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, while the Senate did not support any cap. Governor Bush has promised that he will call a special session to address tort reform after the special session to pass a budget is completed. For more information, visit Web site: www.myflorida.com.


The tort reform bill S.B. 133, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Thomas Price, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon, failed to pass before adjournment, but can be considered in 2004. The cap on noneconomic damages was deleted from the bill before it passed the Senate. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.legis.state.ga.us/.


The physical therapist direct access bill, H.B. 1174, failed to pass before adjournment. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.state.in.us/legislative/


H.B. 259 was signed by the governor. It states that a provider contract cannot include a term giving absolute discretion to the insurer to interpret the contract. S.B. 292 passed the legislature and defines clean claim for prompt pay purposes and limits retrospective denials by insurers to 18 months after payment.


S.B. 2628 was signed into law and creates a state-run insurance program for physicians to provide liability insurance as a last resort. The plan is designed to be short-lived until the previously passed reforms, including a cap, take hold in the market. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.ls.state.ms.us/.


S.B. 363, which limits punitive damages to $10 million or 3 percent of the defendant’s net worth, whichever is less, was signed. Also, H.B. 130 was signed into law and states that all late payments under the prompt-pay law must include a 10 percent late interest penalty. Previously, interest was only paid after the state ruled that late payment was a general business practice of the insurer. For more information, visit Web site: http://leg.state.mt.us/css/default.asp.

New Hampshire

S.B.119 passed the Senate and would eliminate the loss of opportunity doctrine that the New Hampshire Supreme Court created. The loss of opportunity doctrine states that patients can sue when they believe negligence prevented a better outcome from occurring. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.state.nh.us.


S.B. 1116 passed both Houses. The bill redefines the scope of chiropractic by eliminating references to the spine. Instead, it defines chiropractic as "the science and art of locating and removing interference with nerve transmission and nerve function. A chiropractic physician diagnoses and treats neuromuscular and musculoskeletal conditions through physical agent modalities and manipulative therapies. The adjustment, manipulation, or treatment shall be directed toward restoring and maintaining the normal neuromuscular and musculoskeletal function and health of the patient." For more information, visit Web site: http://www.Tennessee.gov.


The prompt-pay bill, Senate Bill 418, passed out of the Senate. An orthopaedist testified in favor of the bill in committee. The deadlines under the bill are 30 days for electronic claims and 45 days for paper. Claims must be submitted within 95 days of service. If additional information is needed, it must be requested within 30 days of receiving the clean claim and the insurer may make only one such request. A physician can recover court costs from the insurer in a lawsuit to obtain payment of late claims. The state may adopt rules that specify information that must be entered into the appropriate fields on the applicable claim form in order for it to be considered to be a clean claim. Insurers only have 180 days to request refund for an overpayment.

S.B. 752 passed both Houses of the legislature. It continues the joint negotiation law until 2007. It was set to expire this year. For more information on both bills, visit Web site: http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.


The legislature adjourned in April without agreeing on a tort reform bill. The Senate passed S.B. 5209 with a cap, while the House of Representatives did not support a cap. The medical community is pushing for the legislature to consider the issue during its special session. For more information, visit Web site: http://www.access.wa.gov.

The AAOS has collected resource materials on the medical liability insurance crisis in the states, including state tort laws, the AMA crisis map, talking points, issue briefs and sample brochures.

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