Author: Albert M. Rodriguez
Once again, legislation has been proposed in the Florida House and Senate to extend sovereign immunity coverage to physicians providing care in emergency rooms. The proposed legislation would make the physicians agents of the State and limit their liability to $200,000 per claim.
Critics of the bill maintain that emergency room physicians already enjoy sufficient protection with statutory caps to medical malpractice claims and argue that additional protection will remove physician accountability, potentially decreasing the quality of care.
However, what the critics of the proposed legislation fail to appreciate is that providing this type of care presents a high risk situation that demands high medical malpractice insurance premiums and frequently exposes emergency room physicians to lawsuits, regardless of whether or not they are responsible for a bad medical outcome. Further, despite the risks, state and federal law require emergency room physicians to provide emergency care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay or the type of their injury or illness, without providing these physicians any protection from liability exposure.
While it is hard to quantify how many specialists have left the state and/or stopped providing care in emergency rooms due to the liability exposure and its associated costs, it is clear that the State must provide physicians an incentive to continue to provide these essential public services if it wants to avoid a future shortage of emergency room physicians.
Please visit the links below to view H.B. 385 and H.B. 614: