Published 8/1/2015
Elizabeth Fassbender

Liability Protection Legislation Introduced

The “Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act” (HR 2603/S 1475), introduced by Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Sen. John Barrasso, MD, (R-Wyo.), would provide a legal safe harbor for physicians who can demonstrate they followed recommended best practices developed by the physician community. In a press release, the legislators emphasized that this legislation has the potential to help lower health care costs while improving the quality of care for patients by reducing the necessary practice of defensive medicine and increasing adherence to evidence-based medicine.

“Frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits are forcing physicians to practice defensive medicine which drives up the cost of health care without improving outcomes for patients,” said Rep. Barr. “The liability climate is forcing many quality physicians out of the practice of medicine altogether and exacerbating an already chronic shortage of doctors, which threatens access to health care in this country.

“This bill takes a reasonable approach that will protect patients and allow medical professionals to spend more time focusing on practicing medicine—and less time in the courtroom.”

On June 9, 2015, the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) sent a letter expressing support for the legislation. According to AAOS President David D. Teuscher, MD, the bill will allow physicians to practice medicine with less fear of frivolous lawsuits.

“The Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act will allow physicians who have demonstrated use of appropriate eligible clinical practice guidelines in the course of treatment to have safe harbor from a lawsuit, should the patient sustain injury from such treatment,” wrote Dr. Teuscher.

“AAOS supports progress in medical liability reform that improves patient safety and reduces the cost of health care,” he continued. “Although much remains to be done, this bill takes positive steps towards reducing frivolous lawsuits and insurance fraud, which is important to ensure physicians can continue to provide the highest quality patient care.”

As noted in the congressional press release, more than 75 percent of physicians face a malpractice claim over the course of their career. This liability climate drives up the cost of care that physicians provide, encourages overutilization, and adds an estimated $70 billion to $126 billion in health costs each year without improving outcomes.

Elizabeth Fassbender is the communications manager in the AAOS office of government relations. She can be reached at fassbender@aaos.org

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