The Kentucky Hospital Association, the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce want the General Assembly to establish three-person panels to reduce the cost of defending and settling them, writes Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press.
“Now is the time for Kentucky to say ‘enough is enough’ to meritless lawsuits, which are having a huge impact on health-care costs,” said Chamber President and CEO David Adkisson. Advocates believe a negative opinion from a review panel would discourage some cases from moving forward or going to trial, and reduce the settlements that defendants might pay.
In 2013, the Senate passed a review-panel bill for nursing homes, but the idea failed in the House. Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she hasn’t decided whether the new bill she is preparing would be limited to nursing home cases, Schreiner reports.
Review panels are opposed by plaintiffs’ lawyers and nursing-home reform groups such as AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons. “”We haven’t seen any evidence that similar legislation has improved the quality of care for nursing home residents” in other states, said Jim Kimbrough, state president of AARP. “What our state needs is to focus on improving the quality of care our seniors are receiving.”
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a plaintiffs’ lawyer and Democrat from Prestonsburg, said Friday he is willing to contemplate “some reasonable sort” of review panels for malpractice suits against nursing homes. He said panel members should be allowed to testify in court, but the panel’s findings should not be admissible.
Dr. Fred A. Williams Jr., president of the KMA, said review panels would help make “the state more attractive to employers while helping us retain and attract the kind of quality physicians and other health-care providers Kentuckians depend upon.”
Stumbo expressed doubt that meritless lawsuits are as numerous as the bill’s advocates say, saying weak cases are discouraged by the high cost of bringing malpractice cases to trial. “He also expressed doubts that the proposed changes would lower malpractice premiums paid by those in the health-care industry,” Schreiner writes.