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Congress approves bill to increase cover from malpractice lawsuits


Health care providers would be protected from Medicare's refusal in certain circumstances to pay charges to be used as a cause of action in medical malpractice lawsuits, under legislation that is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.

H.R. 2, the so-called “doc fix” legislation, which passed the Senate on Tuesday and the House of Representatives earlier, averts a pay cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients and introduces a new payment system.

Instances in which Medicare refuses to pay a claim could include cases where surgical equipment has been left in patients, or where patients have developed infections while in the hospital.

The legislation states that any federal health care provision “shall not be construed to establish the standard of care or duty of care owed by health care provider to a patient in any medical malpractice, or medical product liability action or claim.”

Medicare payment refusals are now used in some cases as among factors to justify malpractice lawsuits.

The legislation is “a tremendous victory for health care professionals and patients alike,” said Gloria H. Everett, chair of the board of directors of Rockville, Maryland-based PIAA which represents medical profession liability insurers, risk retention groups, captives, trusts and other health care entities.

“Health care professionals face significant challenges as a result of the unpredictable medical liability system,” said Ms. Everett, who is also president and CEO of The Mutual Risk Retention Group Inc., which is based in Walnut Creek, California.

“This legislation, however, is a clear step in the right direction. Doctors, nurses, hospitals' and their patients will all benefit from these new protections,” said Ms. Everett.

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