As I’ve said previously, the FMA (and EVP Tim Stapleton) should take a bow for its 2013 legislative victories. Two bills in particular are huge wins for Florida doctors: medical liability reform and an exemption on CAT Fund assessments.
The tort reform will level the playing field for physicians, by finally ensuring that a doctor has the right to consult with an attorney. It also gives physicians equal access to medical fact witnesses, and requires fairness in the use of medical experts (corrects current law by permitting only those physicians in the same specialty as the physician against whom the testimony is offered.)
The CAT Fund exemption ensures that physicians will not be subject to assessments on their medical malpractice insurance. If this legislation had not passed this year, physicians would have been faced with the possibility of thousands of dollars in additional insurance costs if a large hurricane were to strike Florida. To put it in perspective: For consumers who pay an assessment on their car, it is an average of 28 cents … but for physicians, the cost can be tens of thousands of dollars (because their insurance premiums are so high) in the event of a hurricane … meaning that physicians would get saddled with paying disproportionate amount of the CAT Fund.
The FMA prioritized Graduate Medical Education funding in the budget, and (with strong support from the Governor), lawmakers included $80 million to pay for additional residency training positions for new physicians in the state in the budget – 700 new residency slots in Florida.
The FMA successfully removed anti-physician provisions in the Disney-backed “Accuracy in Damages” bill, successfully fought off attempts to prohibit physicians from dispensing workers’ compensation medications in their offices, worked out long-sought compromise between ophthalmologists and optometrists, successfully secured the use of EpiPens in Florida schools, and allowed its medical students to take the lead on a bill establish a needle exchange pilot program in Miami-Dade County (an astounding feat given the conservative nature of the Republican-led Legislature.) The students were able to prove that allowing injection-drug users to exchange dirty needles and syringes for clean ones does NOT increase crime, while it DOES prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases while also encouraging drug users to seek treatment and actually saving taxpayer dollars.
Whew. Quite a list.
Unlike single-issue organizations, the FMA represents a vast membership (from pediatricians to neurosurgeons) and a Session like this doesn’t come easily, even for organizations like the FMA with significant political clout.