AAFP Endorses Senate Bill to Change Judicial System for Malpractice Cases
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recently announced its support of the Reliable Medical Justice Act (S. 1518), a bill that would create as many as seven demonstration projects to be conducted in states that would like to replace their system for trying medical malpractice cases. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), offers three alternative judicial models: (1) early disclosure and compensation, which offers health care providers immunity from lawsuits if they promptly admit negligence to an injured party and make a timely offer of compensation; (2) administrative determination of compensation, which allows states to establish classes of avoidable injuries and create an administrative board to resolve claims related to those injuries; and (3) a special health care court, which would hear cases involving claims of medical negligence with presiding judges who have expertise in health care issues and would make binding rulings on causation, compensation, and standards of care. States also may apply for grants to implement their own tort reform model if they can demonstrate how their version would make the medical liability system more reliable. “Medical liability insurance premiums have increased across the nation, threatening patient access to medical services in some areas. A new vision for addressing this medical crisis is urgently needed,” AAFP Board Chair Warren Jones, M.D., Ridgeland, Miss., wrote in a letter to Senator Enzi.
Survey Indicates Health Insurance Premiums Up 13.9 Percent from 2002
According to results of the 2003 Annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, private health insurance premiums increased 13.9 percent between spring 2002 and spring 2003, representing the third consecutive year of double-digit increases and the seventh straight year of increases. Also, for the second consecutive year, premium increases exceeded the rate of inflation by more than 10 percentage points. The survey, which was released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research and Educational Trust, was conducted between January and May 2003 and included 2,808 randomly selected public and private firms with an employee range of three to 300,000. Annual premium averages were $3,383 for single coverage and $9,068 for family coverage, with employers paying 73 percent and employees paying 27 percent on average. The study noted that most employers were passing on the higher costs to their employees rather than dropping coverage. The study is available online atwww.kff.org/content/2003/3369.
HHS Provides $1.4 Billion for Terrorism Preparedness
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson recently announced the funding of an additional $1.4 billion to help strengthen the capacity of states, territories, and three metropolitan areas to respond to terrorism and other public health emergencies by upgrading the public health system and hospitals/health care entities that respond to such events. Funds will be used to enhance the readiness of hospitals and the health care system to deal with large numbers of casualties, to upgrade infectious disease surveillance and investigation, and to expand public health laboratory and communications capacities. The HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing $870 million for strengthening public health preparedness for outbreaks of infectious diseases, public health emergencies, and bioterrorism by improving surveillance and epidemiology, biologic and chemical laboratory capacity, health information dissemination, communications technology, education and training, and smallpox preparedness. The HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration is providing $498 million for states to develop surge capacity to deal with mass casualty events through the expansion of hospital beds; development of isolation capacity; identification of additional health care personnel; and provision of mental health services, trauma and burn care, and personal protective equipment. HHS is spending $3.5 billion this year for bioterrorism preparedness.
CDC Releases Tool Kit for Management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
The CDC has released a new physician tool kit for the clinical diagnosis and management of mild traumatic brain injury as part of a national initiative to prevent brain injury and improve clinical care of this condition. The tool kit, titled “Heads Up: Brain Injury in Your Practice,” provides information about mild traumatic brain injury, diagnostic criteria, patient management information, patient education materials in English and Spanish, a palm card on managing sports-related head injuries, and a CD-ROM with additional information and resources. A free copy of the tool kit may be ordered online atwww.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/tbi_toolkit/toolkit.htm.
Officers Elected at the 2003 National Conference
Delegates to the National Congress of Family Practice Residents and National Congress of Student Members in Kansas City, Mo., recently elected the following officers for the coming year: members of the AAFP Board of Directors, Saria Carter, M.D., Davie, Fla., and Eddie Turner, Nashville; resident National Conference chair, Janine Brown, M.D., Fairfax, Va.; student National Conference chair, Christie Laming, Greenville, N.C.; alternate delegates to the AAFP Congress of Delegates, Drew Keister, M.D., Waldorf, Md., Michael King, M.D., Lexington, Ky., Jennifer Burger, Portland, Ore., and Daniel Lewis, Hampton, Tenn.; national family medicine interest group coordinator, Gretchen Dickson, Pittsburgh; representatives to the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Board of Directors, David Fisher, M.D., Winston-Salem, N.C., and Amy Shafer, Portland, Ore.; representative to the Association of Family Practice Residency Directors Board of Directors, Nancy Pandhi, M.D., Strasburg, Va.; and representative to the Residency Review Committee for Family Practice, Craig Denham, M.D., Glasgow, Ky.