Government Relations: 2017 Legislative Update

Advocating for Laws That Impact Health Care Liability, Insurance, and Patient Safety

Effective advocacy is crucial for ensuring that the concerns of our members and their patients are heard by lawmakers at both the state and national level. Anne Bryant, Senior Director of Government Relations and a registered lobbyist in Washington and Oregon, works in close cooperation with many other organizations that pursue similar goals, and establishes Physicians Insurance as a leading advocate for laws that impact health care liability, insurance, and patient safety.

We provide advocacy on challenges to medical and hospital professional liability that create new causes of action against health care professionals, alter the standard of care for physicians, create strict liability for performing or not performing care, and impose onerous or unnecessary duties on insureds. Physicians Insurance supports legislation that improves the liability system, promotes meaningful patient-safety initiatives, and improves communication between health care professionals and patients.

WASHINGTON
The historical legislative environment in the Washington State Senate continued as one Democrat Senator crossed over to caucus with the Senate’s 24 Republicans to create a new Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) for control of the Senate.

Governor Inslee (D) won his re-election, and the Washington State House slightly increased its Democratic control with 51 D’s and 47 R’s. State budget issues were the main focus of the 2017 legislative session.

We achieved the following:
 

  • Defeated plaintiff trial bar’s proposals to expand wrongful death claimants to include other beneficiaries.
  • Defeated plaintiff trial bar’s proposals to expand damages by inflating medical expenses in personal injury medical claims
  • Supported proposals to engage in shared decision-making without impacting informed-consent requirements
  • Promoted the passage of the interstate medical licensure compact to allow physicians to practice medicine across state borders (https://tinyurl.com/yaee7t7u)
  • Supported proposals to create an education-based process to remedy minor practice deficiencies through completion of a remediation plan

We continue to partner with the Governor’s Healthier Washington initiative to further improve the health care delivery system through patient empowerment.

OREGON
Governor Brown (D) won her re-election and Democrats maintained control of the Oregon State Senate and House—the Senate with 17 D’s and 13 R’s; the House with 35 D’s and 25 R’s. There are two physicians in the Oregon Legislature, one Republican and one Democrat. This, along with bipartisan support, was instrumental in blocking harmful legislative initiatives promoted by the plaintiff trial bar. There was no opportunity for the passage of any meaningful tort reform this 2017 legislative session.

We achieved the following:
 

  • Defeated proposals that add insurance to the Unlawful Trade Practices Act and expand the types of lawsuits that are brought against insurance companies
  • Defeated plaintiff trial bar’s proposals to increase the $500,000 cap on non-economic damages recoverable in wrongful death and personal injury actions
  • Effectively worked with coalition partners on strategies to assure tort reforms were not eroded by the plaintiff bar

We continue to participate in the Oregon Rural medical professional liability premium subsidy plan, which pays part of the premium by reimbursing participating providers. In addition, we continue to partner with the Oregon Patient Safety Commission to further improve communications between health care professionals and patients, and promote patient empowerment.

IDAHO AND WYOMING
Both states hold strong Republican majorities in the Senate and the House and have Republican Governors. The 2017 legislative sessions were relatively quiet, with limited challenges to medical and hospital professional liability, our insureds, and their patients.

FEDERAL
We continue to support and work closely with PIAA, our national trade association, and its renewed effort to push for national legislation to improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system. Anne Bryant, Senior Director of Government Relations, is the current Chair of PIAA Government Relations Committee.

To date, we have achieved the following:
 

  • Promoted Accessible Care by Curbing Excessive Lawsuits (ACCESS) Act—similar to California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA)— comprehensive legislation that improves the liability system and promotes meaningful patient safety initiatives (See “Federal Medical Liability Reform” article)
  • Continued to support the Affordable Care Act’s provision that no new standard of care for medical liability claims is created by the ACA
  • Promoted the Crisis Standard of Care and Good Samaritan Act, which provides liability protection for health care professionals and facilities providing uncompensated services to victims of federally declared disasters
  • Supported the framework for potential legislation that addresses telemedicine liability as telemedicine services expand

We continue to be a trusted, reliable source for our members and key members of Congress, state legislatures, and state executive branches, and serve them with a fair, balanced, and solution-centered approach.

If you would like to participate in our effort, please contact Anne E. Bryant, Senior Director of Government Relations at Physicians Insurance, at anne@phyins.com.