December 2, 2010 – Tallahassee, FL – Lawmakers in Florida are considering a new statewide policy that would grant doctors of Medicaid patients immunity to medical malpractice lawsuits, The Palm Beach Post has reported. The goal is to lower the Medicaid budget and get more doctors involved in the program. The idea currently on the table involves limiting lawsuits so as to entice more doctors into treating Medicaid patients. It cannot be proven that such measures would in fact decrease the budget or lure more doctors into the program. Some, such as Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, of Weston, are skeptical as to whether the new laws would improve anything at all. “They think [sovereign immunity’s] going to solve our problems. I don’t think the facts actually prove that,” Rich said. “I just don’t think there are that many lawsuits out there by Medicaid patients.” Those who agree with Rich would argue that those who are poor or disadvantaged often lack the funds and/or education to hire an attorney and file a medical malpractice lawsuit. Those in favor of the new laws argue that the poor are often less compliant and don’t have the money to fill prescriptions. This can cause their conditions to worsen or can cause them to end up in the expensive emergency room because they don’t have a primary physician. For these reasons, the poor would be regarded as more expensive to treat and a greater lawsuit risk. The constitutionality of these new laws has also been brought into question. Allowing doctors to avoid lawsuits for only Medicaid patients violates constitutional due process rights for those patients. Florida’s legislature has sent a message to congress expressing its desire to revamp its Medicaid policies. Any such changes must be approved by the federal government before they can be put into effect.
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