Doctors Applaud SGR Bill's Malpractice Protection

Mark Crane

Disclosures

April 16, 2015

Positive Move in the Malpractice Arena

Medical groups are applauding the overwhelming vote in the US Senate Tuesday to prohibit plaintiffs from using a physician's performance on federal quality measures in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

The provision included in the legislation to repeal the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula would stop plaintiffs from using a doctor's quality improvement performance as the sole basis for a medical liability lawsuit or to prove negligence.

Language in the law states that "the development, recognition, or implementation of any federal health care guideline or standard shall not be construed to establish a duty of care in medical malpractice claims."[1]

The bill was passed in the Senate by a vote of 92-8 and was previously approved by the House of Representatives in a 392-37 vote. President Obama has said that he will sign the legislation.

Before the law was passed, medical leaders worried that guidelines and quality criteria could be used in new legal actions against physicians.

For example, plaintiffs won't be able to include in a lawsuit the fact that a doctor didn't earn an incentive under the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), or if a preventive care service covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as screenings, isn't performed and the patient is ultimately diagnosed with a disease. The fact of ACA coverage of the service can't be used to demonstrate malpractice or negligence.

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