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January 31st, 2012

Florida Bill Seeks Greater Legal Protections for Health Care Providers

Concerned by some of the highest-in-the-nation insurance premiums for physicians, a key committee in the Florida House has passed a bill that would grant greater protections for health care providers in medical liability cases.

As reported last Friday by the Florida Independent, “House Bill 385 would grant ‘sovereign immunity’ to providers as ‘government agents,’ allow malpractice defendants to hold ex parte interviews with physicians and adopt stricter standards of proof of medical negligence.”

“The grant of sovereign immunity would mean medical malpractice claimants could seek payment from the state, which would be reimbursed by the health care provider,” the Independent explained.  “The immunity puts a limit on the amount repaid by the provider — up to $200,000 for a single person and $300,000 for a single incident. Any amount exceeding the caps would require approval of the Legislature.”

Sponsors of the bill say that reducing liability for doctors would help the Sunshine State meet its growing demand for emergency care.  They point to a Florida Office of Insurance Regulation report that credited caps on non-economic damages (enacted in 2003) with improving “the solvency of medical malpractice carriers,” and helping to lower “the defense cost and containment ratios in the State of Florida.”

“The provision for ex parte interviews would reverse a statute enacted in 1988 requiring a patient’s written consent for medical records to be shared with a defendant. A prospective defendant would only need to provide a 10-day notice before interviewing the claimant’s health care providers under the new measure,” the Independent concluded.

similar bill has been filed in the Senate.

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