Protecting Medical Liability Reform Laws.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Medical malpractice insurance (Laws, regulations and rules)
Pub Date: 03/01/2012
Publication: Name: West Virginia Medical Journal Publisher: West Virginia State Medical Association Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 West Virginia State Medical Association ISSN: 0043-3284
Issue: Date: March-April, 2012 Source Volume: 108 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Temporal Scope: 2012 AD Event Code: 930 Government regulation; 940 Government regulation (cont); 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Government regulation
Geographic: Geographic Scope: West Virginia Geographic Code: 1U5WV West Virginia
Legal: Statute: Medical Professional Liability Act
Accession Number: 283262279
Full Text: POSITION: The WVSMA strongly maintains the need to preserve the integrity of the Medical Professional Liability Act and to protect against any threats to erode the current statute.

ISSUE: Ten years ago West Virginia's healthcare system was spiraling into a severe crisis. The lack of affordable and available medical liability insurance forced many physicians to either restrict the services they offer, move their medical practice out of state or quit practicing altogether. Faced with the reality that West Virginia's healthcare system was on the verge of collapse, the Legislature responded by passing two rounds of medical liability reform legislation.

First in 2001, the Legislature passed HB 601, which included numerous measures to help put the medical liability insurance market back on track. In 2003 the Legislature once again addressed the crisis with the passage of HB 2122, and was the first comprehensive medical liability reform that had passed in West Virginia in over 20 years and placed West Virginia at the forefront of most states in regard to such reform laws. The new law included a $250,000 non-economic damages cap, a $500,000 trauma cap, collateral source offset, elimination of joint liability, creation of a patient injury compensation fund, and more stringent medical expert witness requirements. Additionally, and critically important, the legislation provided the revenue and mechanism for the creation of a physicians' mutual insurance company, a West Virginia based insurer which is owned and operated by its policyholders.

With this said, long term stabilization of the medical liability insurance market has been hinged upon whether the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals would uphold the caps on damages as constitutional. In June of 2011 the Court ruled, in a 4 to 1 decision, to do just that in the MacDonald v. City Hospital case. This ruling will go far, securing further stabilization of the market.
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