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Doctors, Trial Lawyers Back 'Provider Shield' Law in GA

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 8, 2013

"While we work steadfastly to shield patients from negligent medical care, especially given that 98,000 Americans die annually from preventable medical malpractice, we did not mind helping the physicians enact a bill that will prevent someone from suing a doctor for the doctor's failure to comply with a payment guideline, something that has nothing to do with the real question of whether the doctor failed to comply with the medical standard of care," Clark wrote in an email exchange with HealthLeaders Media.

Bohlke says the law will "ensure that Georgians have access to the highly trained physicians they need by creating a sustainable and more favorable practice environment."

Clark notes that it is "not a safe harbor for physicians who have failed to meet the appropriate standard of care when practicing medicine in Georgia."

"HB499 will not prevent a patient from suing to hold a doctor accountable if he or she fails to follow guidelines relating to the quality of care they are to provide or guidelines relating to best medical practices with which they are supposed to comply," he says.

"The only thing HB499 will do is to prevent a patient from suing a doctor because the doctor did not follow a federal payment guideline. No one in our Association is aware of there EVER being a medical malpractice case based on a doctor's failure to meet a payment guideline. So, restricting the ability to do that through this bill will not create any problems for any patient prosecuting a case of medical malpractice in Georgia."

To win the trial lawyers' support, Clark says Georgia lawmakers made the bill "go both ways so that it does not just shield doctors from having a patient assert that the doctor's failure to comply with a payment guideline was evidence of malpractice. The bill also shields a patient from having a doctor assert that his or her compliance with such a payment guideline is evidence that the doctor provided appropriate care to the patient."

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