Are you afraid of needles, the ubiquitous doctor visit? In most cases, the doctor is more afraid of you. A 2010 Jackson Healthcare Physician Survey revealed the truth where one doctor noted, “I have to view every patient as a potential plaintiff.” The fear of being sued is forcing doctors to practice extremes in defensive medicine that bear extreme costs on Georgia taxpayers and the costs of our health coverage. The ballooning costs of Medicaid alone sent the Georgia General Assembly scrambling for a hospital bed tax worth $300 million dollars earlier this year.
The Patient Injury Act, Senate Bill 141 (SB 141), finds billions in savings to health care costs in Georgia and stands to save taxpayers $1.25 billion dollars a year through medical malpractice reform. The legislation, proposed by State Senator Brandon Beach (R-21) calls for a wholesale conversion from our expensive, broken, adversarial tort system, to a no-fault Patients’ Compensation System that reflects a centuries-old workers’ compensation model.
Here’s how it works under the SB 141 proposal. When a patient is harmed by a physician, he or she files a claim for review by an independent panel of medical experts. If the panel warrants that “avoidable harm” has occurred, the claim is forwarded to a Compensation Board to award compensation. The entire system is funded at the same cost; however, the cost is shouldered by the healthcare providers themselves with no cost to taxpayers. It simply re-allocates the dollars paid by healthcare facilities and medical professionals from insurers to patients in a more efficient manner.
In a study last Fall, Emory University professor Joanna Shepherd Bailey found that trial attorneys rarely take cases where the settlement does not yield $500,000 or more. This means that, for every 1,000 medical claims, only 100 carry sufficient value to engage a lawyer and file the claim. It often takes years for patients to see the payout and, even then, patients typically see 17.5% of the total pie. The rest goes to insurance, administrative, and patient attorney and litigation costs.
What does SB 141 mean for patients and taxpayers? It means fewer unnecessary tests and procedures, greater patient safety, less expensive health insurance for patients and employers, over $1 billion a year in savings to Georgia taxpayers, and more compensation at a faster rate when a patient does suffer harm. It means more medical innovation getting to patients when they need them. The Patient Injury Act is a common-sense approach to reining in out-of-control health care spending with sustainable solutions that are doctor-patient centered and responsibility focused.