The Kentucky Medical Association has filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit filed in Franklin Circuit Court challenging the constitutionality of Senate Bill 4, which established Medical Review Panels to evaluate medical malpractice claims before they can proceed in court.
KMA was among several health care stakeholders that supported the legislation and worked with legislators to ensure it would pass constitutional muster.
“We believe that not only is the new law constitutionally sound, but that it will also improve the health care climate in Kentucky in several ways,” said Nancy Swikert, M.D., the 2016-17 KMA president. “That is why we are seeking to become a party to this lawsuit.”
The new law requires the review of medical malpractice claims by a group of independent, expert health care providers who offer an opinion on the merit of such claims before they are filed in court. KMA believes this first step in meaningful tort reform will help drive down medical costs for Kentuckians and make the Commonwealth more attractive to health care providers, which could address the shortage of physicians in many parts of Kentucky.
“This legislation has been a priority for physicians and the health care community as a whole for a long time,” Swikert said. “This new law will make Kentucky a better place to practice medicine and will enable us to recruit physicians and others who can treat the people of the Commonwealth. We have a host of health issues to address and we need a medical system that is not hamstrung so that we can provide the best care possible.”
The Institute for Legal Reform in 2015 ranked Kentucky 39th in the nation for its lawsuit climate. Senate Bill 4 is designed to significantly improve the Commonwealth’s legal liability climate, making the state a much more attractive destination for not only health care providers, but also businesses.
“As businesses compete to attract the most talented employees, they want to be able to offer a vibrant health care system as part of an employee’s benefit package,” Dr. Swikert said. “Having local physicians available to treat employees and their families is part of making any community a business-friendly place. A vibrant health care community needs a robust network of physicians and other providers who are there to meet the needs of individuals and businesses around the state.”
KMA believes the new law includes safeguards to ensure that legitimate malpractice claims have their day in court.
“This law makes certain that those who have been injured are compensated in a more judicious and timely way. It is a win for all Kentuckians,” Dr. Swikert said.