Government Relations Update

John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Physicians Insurance understands that 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 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 on legislative and regulatory initiatives that impact healthcare liability, insurance, and patient safety, nationally and in states where we do business.

We provide advocacy to address challenges to the healthcare liability system that may (1) create new causes of action against healthcare professionals and providers, (2) alter the standard of care for healthcare professionals and providers, (3) establish strict liability for healthcare professionals and providers providing or not providing care, and (4) impose onerous or unnecessary duties on healthcare professionals and providers. We support comprehensive effective legislation that enhances the healthcare-liability system, promotes meaningful patient-safety initiatives, improves healthcare quality, and supports communications between healthcare professionals, providers, and patients. We have created a distinct market-differentiating value, as we are the only medical-professional liability carrier based in the Northwest with an in-house lobbyist registered in Washington and Oregon. 

Nationally, we continue to support and work with the MPL Association (formerly the PIAA) and its renewed effort to promote national legislation to improve patient access to healthcare services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the healthcare delivery system. Our in-house lobbyist, Anne Bryant, currently serves as the Chair of the MPL Association’s Government Relations Committee.

In 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215)—the first comprehensive medical-liability reform legislation to be passed by either chamber of Congress in more than five years—with a vote of 218-210. The House has passed similar legislation in previous years; the barrier to adoption has been in the Senate. Unlike the previous legislation, H.R. 1215 was limited to claims involving expenditures of federal dollars. In the next Congress, we will continue to promote comprehensive effective legislation that improves the liability system and promotes meaningful patient-safety initiatives similar to California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act across all claims. In addition, we will continue to protect the provision that no new standard of care for medical-liability claims is created by the Affordable Care Act. 

We will promote passage of the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act and support Crisis Standard of Care legislation that provides liability protection for healthcare professionals and facilities providing uncompensated services to victims of federally declared disasters, including working with plaintiff trial lawyers to limit protection to states in which a given disaster has occurred. We will continue to promote the framework for legislation that addresses telemedicine liability concerns as telemedicine services expand. 

In Washington State, we will take a bipartisan approach to defeat any renewed effort to expand liability in wrongful-death and survival claims to include a new class of beneficiaries. We will also work to defeat any renewed effort to expand economic damages by inflating medical expenses in personal-injury medical claims. In addition, we will continue to work to defeat the introduction of exemplary damages, otherwise known as punitive damages, in Washington. We continue to support shared decision-making proposals that do not have the unintended consequences of altering informed-consent requirements. We will support legislation that preserves liability protection for emergency volunteer practitioners. We will also continue to support the pilot program passed in 2018 that provides for reimbursement of telemedicine services as in-person services for certain conditions. We will promote the continuance of confidentiality protections for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner’s data reporting related to closed medical-malpractice claims. We will continue to work with the legislature to promote a legislative solution regarding the Washington State Supreme Court decision Volk v. DeMeerleer, 386 P.3d 254 (Wash. 2016), which broadens a healthcare provider’s duty to protect and warn in the outpatient context, and any other proposals for the 2019 session that impact our members and their patients. 

Physicians Insurance works closely with our allies, including the Washington State Medical Association, the Washington State Hospital Association and the Washington Liability Reform Coalition. We offer to partner with Governor Inslee’s Health Care Advisor to implement the Governor’s Healthier Washington initiative to transform healthcare delivery by promoting community health, improving quality of care, lowering healthcare costs and empowering patients.

In Oregon, we will take a bipartisan approach to defeat any renewed effort to increase the $500,000 cap on non-economic damages recoverable in wrongful-death actions. We will also continue to promote a reasonable and fair cap on non-economic damages recoverable in personal injury actions. In addition, we will work with our partnerships to continue to defeat legislative proposals that add insurance to the Unlawful Trade Practices Act, and any proposals that expand the types of lawsuits that are brought against insurance companies. We will promote legislation that addresses effective components of California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act to enhance and improve the healthcare-liability system and promote communication between healthcare professionals, providers, and patients. We will also work to support phantom-damage legislation that provides language to limit personal-injury damages to amounts billed by healthcare professionals and providers versus those charged by healthcare professionals and providers, and any other proposals for the 2019 session that impact our members and their patients. 

Physicians Insurance works closely with our allies, including the Oregon Medical Association and the Oregon Liability Reform Coalition. We continue to partner with the Oregon Patient Safety Commission to support the Oregon Collaborative on Communication and Resolution Program and the development of a patient-empowerment program. 

Physicians Insurance is well positioned to work with the newly elected governors of both Alaska and Idaho. Governor Mike Dunleavy is a former Alaska State Senator, and Governor Brad Little is Idaho’s former Lieutenant Governor and Past-Chair of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Both Alaska and Idaho have strong holds in the Legislature, meaning we do not anticipate any significant areas of healthcare-liability defense, nor do we anticipate any significant areas of healthcare-liability offense. We will continue to monitor legislative activity and work with our partners in both states. 

Physicians Insurance serves as a trusted, reliable source for our members and key members of Congress, state legislatures, and state executive branches, with a bipartisan, fair, balanced, and solution-centered approach.


MPL Association Negotiates Protections for Insurers

The Sports Medicine Licensure Clarity Act passed Congress as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 302). This bill clarifies that sports-medicine physicians, athletic trainers, and other medical professionals have medical-professional liability coverage while traveling across state lines with an athlete or athletic team. The bill ensures that sports-medicine professionals who provide onsite medical treatment will be covered by their MPL insurer, as long as they notify the organization in advance of engaging in sports-medicine care. This stipulation was negotiated into the bill by the MPL Association and gives MPL insurers an opportunity to adjust sports-medicine professionals’ premium, add any necessary riders, or decline to cover the professional for the related activity. The bill also stipulates that sports-medicine professionals’ medical licenses will be deemed valid in other states when they travel with their teams, but subjects that provision to any other existing state compact, agreement, or licensing exemption. The bill was signed by the president and became law on October 5, 2018.

Physicians Insurance supported the MPL Association as they played a major role in paving the path for the bill’s approval, while protecting the interests of its members. 


Anne E. Bryant
Senior Director of Government Relations