Sen. Brandon Beach: Patient Injury Act Reduces Healthcare Costs, Increases Access to Justice

January 22, 2014 10:00 am

by Stefan · 12 comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest editorial by Senator Brandon Beach, sponsor of Senate Bill 141, the “Patient Injury Act”, it will be followed by a response from Representative Ronnie Mabra at 11 AM.

Tens of thousands of Georgians have less take home pay starting this month thanks to larger health insurance premiums directly attributed to Obamacare. Many of the self-employed, in particular, had to purchase new health insurance and found the sticker shock astounding as they paid for additional coverage they didn’t want or didn’t need.

There is certainly a better way to tackle health care reform. The Georgia Senate is considering my proposal called the Patient Injury Act that would truly reduce health insurance costs by reducing the practice of defensive medicine.

Doctors perform defensive medicine every day when they order more tests and procedures for their patients than are medically necessary to keep from being sued. This pushes up the cost of healthcare for all of us. It was a topic never addressed with Obamacare as trial lawyers are some of the biggest donors to the Democratic Party.

Here in Georgia, we don’t have to follow that path. BioScience Valuation says if we embrace the Patient Injury Act, we could save $8 billion annually in public and private health insurance plans. That’s because when a patient is injured, there would no longer be a lengthy legal process to settle a potential claim. Doctors or hospitals would never be sued again. Instead a panel of healthcare experts would hear the complaint — just as the trial bar has an ethics panel hear complaints about lawyers who may have erred in the practice of their profession.

Under the proposed Patients Compensation System, when the medical panel has found an avoidable harm had occurred, the harmed patient would be promptly awarded compensation. Under our current system, a patient who does file suit doesn’t necessary get their day in court. Only a handful of cases make it to trial and even fewer result in settlements or verdicts.

The PCS would be funded with current malpractice premiums, and it would not require a tax increase.

However, this plan is more than about cost. It is about patients. Take Jennifer Shiver of Woodstock, a new constituent of mine. She is like many victims of medical malpractice. She and her children were turned down by three trial lawyers to represent a case against a Gainesville physician who performed a failed gastric bypass operation on her late husband.

Despite a series of mistakes, from delaying surgery after he was septic to leaving a sponge inside him, attorneys told the widow they didn’t see a huge payout in the case. The said litigation would be too costly. She and her two children got nothing as Jennifer had to raise two children alone.

We know from a 2013 Vanderbilt Law Review article by Emory scholar Joanna Shepherd-Bailey that a majority of attorneys will not take strong cases unless the payout is $500,000 or more.

A patient’s life should not just be a business decision. It is about the harm done to them and their family. Trial lawyers and legal advocates can talk all day long about a patient’s right to a jury trial, but when so few patients have access to justice we know it’s just hyperbole.

The Patients Compensation System is the best idea yet to not only reduce healthcare costs but give all harmed patients the compensation and access to justice they truly deserve.

Beach is a Republican state Senator from Alpharetta and executive director of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce.

 

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

SmyrnaModerate January 22, 2014 at 10:22 am

If even trying to place caps on med mal awards was found unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court (7-0) because it violated citizens rights to trial by jury, how on earth do you think this would be constitutional?

Napoleon January 22, 2014 at 10:56 am

It isn’t. And from what I understand it’s going nowhere. You can’t all of a sudden decide a tort is not a tort and take away the right of a person to have their case heard before a jury of their peers. The Georgia Constitution gives people that right as well and says that the right is “inviolate” (Art. 1, Sect. 1, Paragraph XI).

There is a movement that all legislation in Congress should have a Constitutional justification that allows for the legislation. Maybe we need to have the same movement for Georgia laws.

Thomas Adams (@GeorgiaCRE) January 22, 2014 at 10:40 am

Patient Injury Act Reduces Healthcare Costs, Increases Access to Justice http://t.co/B77Zo48Umi

DavidTC January 22, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Someone’s going to have to explain to me how a system where patients get rewarded *better* will make malpractice insurance cost doctor’s *less*.

Oh, right, because we’re putting the decision on how much the patient was harmed in the same hands *of the people controlling the payout*. So in actuality, patients *won’t* get rewarded better.

And, of course, it’s literally impossible for patients *to* get rewarded better, considering the reward is coming from the same pool of money as current premiums.(1)

And, of course, if the cost of ‘malpractice insurance’ is the same, YOU HAVEN’T LOWERED HEALTHCARE COSTS AT ALL. Uh, duh.

Exactly just how stupid do they think we are here?

1) Everyone does realize this is literally ‘single-payer malpractice insurance’, right? That it is, in the words of the right, socializing malpractice insurance?

bobbatl January 22, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I keep a record of representatives who promote something like this. The “sell” job makes Beach seem more like a used car salesman than a Georgia State Senator. Worse, seems more like a hack for a lobby that would LOVE to see this in place…to benefit them.

So which is it? Deception due to selling out? Dim bulb?
A mark has been made by Beach’s name for someone NOT properly representing.

SmyrnaModerate January 22, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Both GTLA and MAG are against the proposal so I think the point is for the honorable senator to have something to put in his constituent newsletter and have a nice talking point for the next chamber luncheon beyond that it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time

EAVCandor January 22, 2014 at 2:17 pm

Stopped reading at, “The Senate is considering my bill..” because that’s where he started lying. Unconstitutional and going nowhere, regardless of how many dollars the Chamber tosses at it.

Stefan January 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Looks like Patients for Fair Compensation is targeting McKoon. Seems like a bad idea: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Truth-About-SB-141.html?soid=1103092623199&aid=peNufzJc7r0

UpHere January 22, 2014 at 5:36 pm

This same group, Wayne Oliver is the director, did the same thing with House members over the summer with mailers to senior citizens that vote Republican. McKenna Long & Aldridge is the lobbying arm. Who works for them? Mark Burkhalter. Who is Burkhalter’s best friend? Brandon Beach.

This stinks to high heaven.

SmyrnaModerate January 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm

anytime a Republican, let alone one who represents such a wealthy area, gives as one of his main arguments in favor of his legislation that trial lawyers aren’t suing doctors enough, one should be… skeptical lol

John Konop January 22, 2014 at 7:57 pm

Brandon is a very thoughtful legislator who listens to his constituents. I do not know much about this bill, but I do know Brandon will listen to your suggestions and take it into consideration. If you have constructive opinions you should just write him instead of taking cheap shots. Brandon and I have not always 100 per agreed on issues, but he has always taken input into consideration. I have tremendous respect for him, and I am happy he represents my district.

Some of you take disagreements way to personal……Sen.Fran Miller and I had disagreements via the charter school bill financial controls….I called him and he took into consideration my suggestions about the issue… While we debated issues within the bill, I also defended him publicly against personal attacks…On a macro Fran and I agree way more on education than we disagree….

The only point of me bringing up the above is some of you are way more about the fight than solving the problem. I do know Brandon and Fran are about solving issues over politics…..

saltycracker January 22, 2014 at 11:33 pm

“Doctors perform defensive medicine every day when they order more tests and procedures for their patients than are medically necessary to keep from being sued.”

No idea if this is the right Bill to reign in the sue, sue, sue. I attended a forum where Mr. Beach posed his position above in a question to a Dr. In the course of the discussion a lab owner was
very adamant that, in Georgia, a big part of the problem was that Doctors found good profits by marking up lab fees, illegal in some other states and to disallow those markups might be a good first step. He challenged the forum that doctor/legislator coziness was not in our best interest either. Thus ended the discussion.

Guess we have to keep an eye on both sides to find patient balance.