We’ve speculated about it for a while, and now it appears that the Patient Compensation Act is back, and will be introduced in the Senate this morning as Senate Bill 86. Sponsored by Senator Brandon Beach, Republican of Alpharetta, and co-sponsored by Senators John Albers of Roswell, Steve Gooch of Dahlonega, Hunter Hill of Atlanta, and Tommie Williams of Lyons, from its description the bill would
establish the “Patient Compensation Act” … so as to create an alternative to medical malpractice litigation whereby patients are compensated for medical injuries; … establish the Patient Compensation System and the Patient Compensation Board; … provide for review by an administrative law judge; [and] provide for appellate review.
That’s one description. The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association sees it a bit differently, describing the bill as one that
seeks to strip Georgia patients of their constitutionally-guaranteed ability to hold negligent healthcare providers accountable before a jury of fellow citizens, and instead would circumvent centuries of legal precedent by forcing injured patients’ cases into a bureaucratic system of healthcare providers who would sit in sole judgment over the conduct of their colleagues.
When I took a look at the 2014 version of the bill, I thought it represented the ‘Death Panels” Sarah Palin was worried about in the Affordable Care Act, but in reverse. The bill in essence establishes a value for each type of damage a patient might receive due to a mistake made by a doctor. So, for instance, the loss of a finger due to medical malpractice might be valued at $500,000. But the law makes no allowance for the differing circumstances of a symphony orchestra pianist, who would become unable to persue her career, and a retired gentleman who would simply have to adjust the way he holds his cards at the weekly bridge game.
The bill’s proponents argue it will reduce overall medical costs because the expense of defensive medicine and malpractice insurance will be minimized. And last year, the bill’s advocates, especially Rick Jackson of Jackson Healthcare, spent a lot of time and money trying to get the law passed, at least until their aggressive tactics were exposed.
The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association isn’t taking any chances this year, sending out a press release this morning with a quote from GTLA President Lindley Jones, who said,
Replacing the time-tested civil jury system with a taxpayer-funded bureaucratic government agency would be an egregious infringement on Georgia citizens’ constitutional rights, and I strongly believe that Senate Bill 86 would be held unconstitutional if it were to come before the Georgia Supreme Court.
Senate Bill 86 eliminates all current procedural safeguards, legitimate accountability mechanisms and meaningful appeals processes that are the cornerstones of the Civil Justice System, and I urge our lawmakers to reject this unconstitutional proposal outright.
We will see if this year’s version fares better than last year’s.