Leaders of the Coalition to Heal Healthcare in Florida told the state legislature returning to the Capitol for the start of a four-day special session that Governor Jeb Bush’s comprehensive reform package will solve the worsening medical malpractice crisis, and that if lawmakers fail to act again, the state is facing a medical meltdown.
The coalition, spearheaded by the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Medical Association, includes 130 of the state’s top medical and business groups, collectively representing thousands of employers and millions of workers. Coalition members held a press conference at the Capitol to address the crisis and the consequences of legislative inaction.
“First, we want lawmakers to know we are standing as one—our coalition is united and unwavering in working together to end this crisis,” said John Thrasher, a former House Speaker and the coalition’s chief lobbyist.
“Second, there’s just one decision left for lawmakers—they must decide now whether they will heal Florida’s healthcare system, because legislative delay is moving us toward a medical meltdown.
“Third, there’s one logical solution to this crisis—adopting the comprehensive and reasonable reform package introduced by Governor Bush. We are convinced it will solve our state’s problems,” Thrasher added.
Last fall and early this year, an independent task force of university leaders studied the crisis extensively, holding hearings and taking testimony from hundreds of witnesses around the state. In January, the task force issued a report with 60 recommendations to improve patient safety, enhance physician discipline, stabilize the insurance market, and create more reasonable parameters for lawsuits and compensating injured parties.
Governor Bush and coalition leaders endorsed the comprehensive approach taken by the task force. But legislative leaders couldn’t reach agreement, and the legislature adjourned from the regular session May 2 without passing any bill to address the crisis.
The governor’s package includes recommendations in the areas of quality of care, insurance reform, and lawsuit reform.
The quality of care initiatives include requiring doctors and hospitals to report adverse incidents to patients, providing more authority to the Board of Medicine for disciplining doctors, and requiring patient safety plans at all healthcare facilities.
Insurance reform proposals include revising so-called “bad faith” provisions to provide more fairness in trying and settling cases, requiring insurers to give more claims data to state regulators, and creating self-insurance options for doctors.
The governor’s lawsuit reform proposals include providing sovereign immunity to doctors and hospitals that are required by law to provide emergency care to all patients seeking treatment, encouraging arbitration and mediation to relieve overburdened courts, and providing unlimited economic damages to injured parties, while capping non-economic damages at $250,000.
Governor Bush has said that if lawmakers pass the package, he’ll seek an immediate 20 percent rate rollback from insurers, a move backed by Florida’s largest medical liability insurer.
Coalition leaders who represent hospitals, doctors and businesses told lawmakers that they must address a crisis that is driving up healthcare costs and eroding the availability of healthcare services for 16 million Floridians. In recent months, hospitals have closed obstetrics units, hospital emergency and trauma care units have faced shutdowns, and scores of doctors have been forced to cease or limit their practices.
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