Lawsuit shield added to House Medicaid planby John Kennedy | March 24th, 2011
A rewrite of the state’s $22 billion Medicaid program cleared the House budget committee Thursday in a party-line vote, after ruling Republicans tucked in a provision making it tougher for patients to sue doctors.
Medicaid patients injured in medical malpractice cases would be limited to a $300,000 award under the late-added measure.
Rep. Rob Schenck, R-Spring Hill, who is spearheading the House’s Medicaid rewrite, said the limitations will encourage more doctors to care for the low-income, elderly and disabled patients the program serves — if shielded from heavy legal liability.
Democrats pushed back — unsuccessfully, seeking to at least delay the vote.
Critics also said the limit would force severely injured, indigent patients to remain on state Medicaid rolls, adding costs that could have been removed if they were able to secure a malpractice settlement.
Without prospects for a substantial legal payment, trial lawyers are unlikely to pursue lawsuits involving Medicaid doctors or facilities, critics said.
“I can’t answer as to why or why not an attorney would take a case,” Schenck said. “What I’m okay with is having more providers taking care of more Medicaid recipients.”