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Governor Bush Unveils Medical Malpractice Legislation

May 28, 2003
Source: Executive Office of the Governor

Governor Jeb Bush today unveiled a medical liability reform package that would solve Florida’s current health care crisis, bring doctors back to work and ensure that every Floridian has access to quality health care. Based on the Governor’s Task Force Report, the bill includes wide-ranging legal and insurance reforms as well as changes to the physician discipline system, and would roll back malpractice insurance rates by 20 percent. The Governor, who was joined at the press conference today by U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, also called the Legislature back for a special session to address this issue June 16-19.

“For months Florida has been on the verge of a massive health care crisis. Doctors are leaving our state. Hospitals are closing needed services. Patients can’t get basic health care. We cannot stand by and watch. We must fix this problem, and this proposal is the solution. It strengthens quality of care, provides insurance rate rollbacks and reforms the legal process,” said Governor Bush. “The people who save lives support this proposal, and the Florida Legislature should too. I look forward to working with them in the special session to ensure that in 2003 every Florida citizen has medical care.”

The proposal would increase quality of care through reforms in the physician discipline system, would provide more certainty in legal disputes by encouraging cases to be resolved outside the courtroom and capping non-economic damages, and would provide for a 20 percent rate rollback on insurance through so-called bad faith reform. Included in the proposal:

QUALITY OF CARE:

  • Strengthens the internal risk management programs of hospitals by requiring the hospital and physicians to report adverse incidents to patients.
  • Gives the Board of Medicine more authority over standard of care issues, and changes the standard of evidence from clear and convincing to greater weight of the evidence, making it easier for the Board of Medicine to perform their disciplinary function.
  • Requires all health care facilities to have a patient safety plan and creates patient safety instruction requirements at the medical school level.
  • Requires AHCA to study the types of information the public might need to know in the selection of physicians and hospitals.


TORT REFORM:

  • Does not limit economic damages, but provides a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages.
  • Creates sovereign immunity for doctors and hospitals that provide emergency care in accordance with federal and state requirements that force them to do so.
  • Encourages voluntary binding arbitration, so more cases will be handled outside the backlogged court system. It also requires mandatory mediation.


INSURANCE REFORM:

  • Reforms bad faith provisions and lets insurance companies make settlement offers once they have all the information they need to make a reasonable decision.
  • Requires reporting of claims to the Department of Insurance so we can have better data.
  • Permits doctors to self-insure, so they don’t necessarily have to rely on insurance companies.


Governor Bush appointed a task force of University leaders last fall to make recommendations on how to solve Florida’s medical malpractice crisis. The task force met with patients, providers and a broad array of Floridians impacted. The task force delivered 60 recommendations that served as the basis for Governor Bush’s proposals to the Legislature.

Among those joining the Governor at the press conference were Secretary for the Agency for Health Care Administration Rhonda Medows and Florida Department of Health Secretary John Agwunobi.