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Georgia Physicans Mull Workers’ Compensation-Like Plan for Medical Malpractice - Insurance Journal

November 20, 2012, by Michael Adams

Georgia physicians are debating whether to push for a state constitutional amendment to reinstate a $350,000 cap on medical malpractice non-economic damages or scrap the current tort driven system in favor of a scheme similar to the one used in workers' compensation.

Georgia's medical malpractice system has been under scrutiny since 2005 when state lawmakers approved a sweeping rewrite of the law. Among other things, the law raised the burden of proof individuals must meet to sue emergency rooms, placed a two-year statute of limitations on claims, and called for some parties to pay the other's legal fees in certain cases.

The centerpiece of the reforms, however, was a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages. The Georgia Supreme Court in 2010 declared that provision to be unconstitutional, saying it improperly nullified a jury's ability to award damages based on the facts in a case.

Now, health care providers in the state are considering their next move in an effort to rein in overall health care costs and reduce their medical malpractice premiums.

Jackson Healthcare Solutions CEO Richard Jackson believes it is time to replace Georgia's current medical malpractice system that relies on courts to settle claims and institute a no-fault model that would closely mirror the one utilized to resolve workers' compensation claims.

"The medical malpractice system is incredibly inefficient and the money actually goes to others in the system and not patients," said Jackson.

Through the Patients for Fair Compensation, Jackson and his colleagues are advocating for the creation of a no-fault system whereby claims would be funneled through an independent medical review panel. The independent panel would review claims and forward those it finds have merit to a compensation department that would create a fee schedule for damages. Patients could appeal findings to an administrative law judge.

Jackson said the proposed system would restore the original intent of the medical malpractice system, which was designed to compensate patients in the event of a medical error. As it is now, he said, many deserving patients go without benefits simply because no attorney will take their case.

"If you are poor, unemployed or a child, attorneys will not take the case," Jackson said. "What we want is a no-blame, streamline system that pays patients and is way more efficient."

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