As mentioned in this blog earlier, 2015 saw at least six states renew efforts for medical tort reform. We anticipated we would see the efforts continue in other states and we were right. One of the more creative proposed reforms for medical malpractice was introduced in the Georgia State Legislature by a foursome of Senators in the form of the Patient Compensation Act, S.B. 86, 2015-16 Leg. Sess. (Ga. 2015).
The distinguishing feature of this Act is that it sets up a Patient Compensation Board and Medical Review Committee to take the place of the traditional judge and jury. While the Act clearly does not usurp the court function for malpractice claims based on pharmaceuticals, the reach of the Act is broadly phrased to extend to claims made by any patient or his or her next of kin arising from medical treatment. The system is somewhat similar to the way in which Workers’ Compensation claims are handled, although there is a bit more formality to the medical malpractice process. The Act proposes to create an independent medical review panel to evaluate whether the application presents a claim for a valid medical injury. The Act sets some rather tight deadlines for the handling of the applications, including a 60-day window in which the office may conduct an investigation into the application. Both a patient and a health care provider’s right to appeal from an adverse determination is limited to 15 days.
Despite the novel approach of the Patient Compensation Act, this bill did not advance during the first half of the legislative session.