Medical malpractice law pulled from agenda

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SANTA FE, N.M. – Many are sounding the alarm on an issue with a recent medical malpractice law designed to better protect patients, but now some are saying it’s making it harder to find healthcare.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth in the Roundhouse about how to address soaring insurance costs for doctors.

There’s a proposed solution from the governor’s office that was supposed to be heard in a committee Wednesday. House Bill 500 was on the agenda but was pulled at the last minute because of a personal emergency.

Albuquerque state Rep. Day Hochman-Vigil is carrying the bill, and admits this is not a silver bullet for the medical malpractice issue.

However, she believes it can help a lot of health care providers who are struggling to keep up with rising medical malpractice insurance premiums.

The proposal wants to set aside $70 million in state money to help cover those costs and that assistance would come in levels.

Doctors operating in New Mexico for less than three years can only get 25% of costs covered, while providers with more than 12 years in New Mexico can get 100% of their premium covered.

“Medical malpractice has been kind of one of the tougher issues that we’ve been dealing with this session, and it’s gotten over politicized. And so the point of House Bill 500, is to come up with a real life, real time solution that is going to assist health care providers in a way that, you know, it’ll help them in their daily lives,” said Hochman-Vigil. 

Hochman-Vigil admits HB 500 won’t do much for health care providers who can’t get medical malpractice insurance. However, she says that group is much smaller than recent outrage would suggest.

One attorney says that smaller group is made up of outpatient health care facilities that perform serious procedures.

She believes they can’t find insurance within the state’s patient compensation fund and insists they need to look to the private market.

“I think the solution is rather than maintaining a fear campaign that genuinely is scaring doctors and patients alike, is to sit down and have an honest conversation about what can be done to ensure that these clinics can buy insurance on the market, just like all of our other small businesses in New Mexico do,” said Kathy Love, a medical malpractice attorney. 

Hochman-Vigil believes this is only the first of many solutions aimed at addressing these medical malpractice concerns.

The clock is ticking though, the next time the House Appropriations and Finance Committee meets is on Friday.

If approved, HB 500 would only have a week to clear a House floor vote and the entire Senate to reach the governor’s desk.

Track HB 500 during the legislative session.