2015 Patient Compensation Act Introduced in the Senate

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.

24 comments

  1. blakeage80 says:

    Is it a sign that I need help when my first thought was, “Which finger would I be willing to lose for 500 grand and where could I arrange for this to happen ‘accidentally’?”

  2. benevolus says:

    How about this: As well as capping the VICTIM, why don’t we cap the income of the GUILTY? 20% of their income goes into a fund to pay the victims.

      • benevolus says:

        Well, I just threw a number out there, maybe there’s a better one.
        It’s just appalling that we are more concerned with the insurance companies than we are the victims.
        Maybe set up a fund that all doctors have to pay into. Don’t we do something like that for DUI?
        Maybe you have to pay more into it if you’ve had a judgement against you.
        But the point is, get a mechanism outside the insurance companies if the insurance companies are whining too much.

        • John Konop says:

          ………Maybe set up a fund that all doctors have to pay into. Don’t we do something like that for DUI?…….

          This is called malpractice insurance. You get your rates are based on how you perform…All you are doing is setting up a new insurance fund…you are not capping any risk……

          • benevolus says:

            I know it’s just like malpractice insurance, but apparently the insurance companies have convinced some legislators that they just can’t make it unless we help them out. So yes, set up an “insurance” plan outside of the insurance companies. The city and the state have “rainy day funds”, call this the “Rain of insurance company tears fund”.

            If you want to cap something, cap what the lawyers can make. Seems I’ve read that half of awards go to the lawyers.
            Why do we so often pick on the victim? Surely there is another way to control costs than to restrict the ONE PARTY that has actually been injured.

            • John Konop says:

              I just do not get how it solves anything…..it just takes money from one pocket and puts it in an another pocket…it does nothing to cap the cost of it….This is the problem with many of the solutions with medical care on both sides….both sides debate how to move money from one pocket to the other pocket….fooling people that is a solution. And both sides run when it comes to cost containment tough fixes…we hear about death panels, killing grandma……blah, blah….and we skip over the real debate…than repeat….

              Agree or not with this bill, it at attempts to hit the problem….it is not more of pass the buck….I am no expert on the bill…I do think people should be taken care of if negligence….it cannot be that you hit the lottery….the system cannot afford it….that is the core dirty work we must come up with a solution. You are a very bright person…I am sure you get my point…

              • benevolus says:

                Well I’ve read through that bill now, and here are my thoughts (FWIW):
                – It does create a fund that healthcare providers pay in to from which compensation is paid out of.
                – The compensation cannot exceed the amount in the fund. So does that mean if there is an uptick in malpractice awards, if you get injured in December you’re out of luck?
                – I don’t have a problem in principle with removing this process from the courts.
                – There is a group specified to come up with a “schedule of compensation”. I’m not sure if that indicates a hard cap, or more of a guideline for award amounts.

                From what I can tell, our malpractice system is ridiculously expensive compared to most of the rest of the world (as usual). The main differences seem to be:
                – We use public juries
                – We don’t do “loser pays”
                – In most of the rest of the world, all citizens are getting any continuing health care they would need anyway so that part of any compensation is unneeded.

                This bill in general seems like a step in the right direction, but I don’t think capping the awards would be necessary or fair. Just taking the process away from public juries would likely restrain exorbitant awards a lot.

  3. Three Jack says:

    Hey GOP, regulate much?

    Not surprising to see who sponsored this bill that would result in a loss of choice for patients.

  4. Posner says:

    This bill has so many problems, it’s hard to know where to begin. Putting aside the philosophical (right to a jury trial, right to confront your accuser, direct wealth transfer from rich to poor, new gov’t bureaucracy, etc.) I’ll highlight two.

    First, the original study used to come up with this bill (prepared by Aon Risk Solutions) estimates that costs under the PCA will INCREASE $55 million (from approx $423MM to $478MM per year). In other words, their own study indicates that their system increases the cost of the med mal system.

    Second, this bill drastically increases frivolous claims, fraud, and abuse. Again using their own study, they estimate that frivolous claims will increase an obscene 1730% under their system. Overall, they estimate claims will increase a massive 122% under their system.

    So, this new system costs the taxpayer MORE money than the current system, and that additional money is going to frivolous and fraudulent claims for compensation.

  5. DunwoodyModerate says:

    Just going to cut and paste my comments from last year-

    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 the proponents of this bill think this would be constitutional?

  6. mgump says:

    I just sent this message to Brandon Beach, it sums up exactly what I would otherwise say here:

    I am extremely disappointed by your introduction of Senate Bill 86, the “Patient Compensation Act.” I’m a constitutional conservative, so naturally any attempt to replace a jury (namely “we the people”) with yet another government mandated system for determining compensation is wrong.
    Whether on purpose or in the name of good intentions, the outcome of what you are pursuing is the same: the power of the jury to determine what is fair for fellow citizens will be replaced by cold, impersonal numbers predetermined by elected politicians.
    It doesn’t matter how honorable your intentions are – government mandates that replace the people’s free will is not the right solution. I am very, very disappointed in you for thinking that this is right path for GA and its citizens.

    • John Konop says:

      Do not complain when the systems goes bk…..We have real issues with healthcare cost growing way faster than GDP….The reason nothing really gets done is dogmaitic thinking by all sides…I guess, feeling you are right, is more important, than people not getting healthcare to live….

      • mgump says:

        Replacing the power of the citizens with government bureaucracy is a non-starter. I won’t negotiate the (additional) irreversible demise of liberty just to “get something done.”

      • georgiahack says:

        Is there really an issue with Medical Malpractice insurance going up and up. I remember a GOP plan to put caps on the economic damages. One that was supposed to stop the increase in medical malpractice insurance. Well, first the caps did nothing to bring it down, and IRCC they actually went up that first year. Then the caps got struck down by the GA Supreme Court in 2010. Guess what, the rate has fallen 8.5% from 2010 til now.

        Sounds like another GOP solution looking for a problem.

        • John Konop says:

          The problem is you guys on all sides are looking for silver bullets…,the truth is fixing the healthcare problem takes putting together many solutions….to many problems….the reality like it or not.,,.this is an issue….people on both sides play the same game….always arguing in isolation….obviously mathematically this one issue will not solve the problem….But add all the solutions you have a winning formula….I have heard many bs excuses on real healthcare fixes….killing grandma, death panels, this one issue is just a small part, liberty…..all spin….but hey keep playing game…..and it will explode….math is math…baby boomers getting older….head in sand…healthcare cost growing way faster than GDP….you guys are betting on that….lol…do not need a GT math major on how this math problem will end….

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