Cardiologists need to engage in tort reform

March 24, 2015

Medical liability concerns still rate high on the list of concerns by cardiologists, despite State tort reforms in the past decade that have resulted in fewer claims made against physicians and subsequent decreased malpractice insurance pricing.

Medical liability concerns still rate high on the list of concerns by cardiologists, despite State tort reforms in the past decade that have resulted in fewer claims made against physicians and subsequent decreased malpractice insurance pricing.

However, the pendulum could swing back to State tort reforms that are more lawyer friendly and could result in more numerous and higher jury awards coupled with an increase in the cost of malpractice insurance pricing.

“Liability concerns are still number 3 on a list of 10 or 12 issues that cardiologists worry about the most, right behind compensation and general healthcare delivery issues,” said Joseph S. Wilson, MD, CEO  and Chairman of MagMutual Insurance Group of Atlanta, GA. , who spoke on the shifts in State tort reform that swing from favoring the interests of physicians and those of lawyers during his presentation at the ACC meeting, entitled “State Tort Reforms: Implications for Cardiologists and Cardiac Surgeons.”

Given the cycles of medical liability issues, it is important that physicians get involved at the state level to help maintain the gains made over the past decade that have shifted toward more physician-friendly tort reforms.

Dr. Wilson cited legislation passed in Texas in 2003 that, among other reforms, capped the amount of non-economic damages at $250,000. Since this reform was enacted, the insurance market in Texas has stabilized, he said, with a significant decrease in malpractice pricing and a growth in the number of physicians practicing.

“This is a time for tort activity at the state level,” Wilson emphasized. “Each time we address tort reform, we’ve become complacent and we’ve allowed that pendulum to swing back toward liabilities issues that negatively impact physicians and patients.”

As such, Wilson encourages cardiologists to get involved, such as in their local ACC chapters, and to not only think about liability but act on it.

“We need to look at change that benefits the provider, the doctors, the cardiologists, and the patients,” he emphasized, adding that cardiologists need to take advantage of the current opportunity to guard against the pendulum swinging back toward a more lawyer-friendly focus as it has in the past 3 cycles. “This gives us the opportunity at the state level to try to get innovative and creative.”