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Kentucky Senate Passes Medical Malpractice Bill

Kentucky Senate Passes Medical Malpractice Insurance BillThe Kentucky Senate recently passed a bill creating medical malpractice panels. A panel of medical experts would review allegations of medical malpractice against health care providers before they could be pursued. The vote followed a touchy debate on medical malpractice laws that have garnered strong opinions on both sides. The bill now proceeds to the House, where it is expected to some very adamant opposition.

Republican Senator Julie Denton, the lead sponsor of the bill, says it was devised to expedite the review process and reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the cost of medical malpractice insurance and forcing health care providers to leave the state.

“This bill is about ensuring that we have access to the best health-care providers possible in our commonwealth,” Denton said. “And we are going to lose them, or we are not going to be able to attract them, if we don’t address this issue.”

Medical malpractice bill faces opposition

Senator Ray Jones II, a Democrat from Pikeville, disagrees with Denton. He believes the addition of medical review panels into the medical malpractice process would hurt “the weakest, most vulnerable people in our society.”

“This is a huge impediment to average folks to access the courts,” he said.

Supporters of the bill disagree, saying it would not hinder patients’ access to the court system.

Bill aims to lower medical malpractice insurance rates

The bill promotes the establishment of panels three-member expert panels, who will review medical malpractice evidence before plaintiffs can have their case heard in a court of law. The prosecution and the defense would each select one member, and those two experts would choose the third panelist.

While the three panelists would review the cases to provide their opinions on whether the medical professional violated the standards of care, they would not have the authority to draw conclusions of law.

“How is it fair for a panel to render an opinion, but not tell any of the parties the basis for the opinion?” Jones asked. “That can’t be fair. That’s fundamentally unconstitutional.”

The Senate passed the bill after more than an hour of debate on a 23-13 party-line vote, just hours after Denton led a Senate panel to revise it. One of the updates included a change to make the panel’s finding inadmissible in court if substantial new evidence emerged later on.

To further validate his point during the debate, Jones showcased graphic photographs of what he claimed were the consequences of medical malpractice. He proposed a number of amendments to the bill, but the changes were declared out of order.

Other influential groups in the state have expressed their opinion on the issue. The bill is supported by numerous health care providers and business organizations in Kentucky, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Conversely, the AARP has spoken out in opposition of it.

This bill has passed Denton’s Health and Welfare Committee once before, but was sent back after Jones filed a number of amendments to change it. The bill has died once before in the Democratic-majority House.