Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin / 732-787-1170
October 2, 2012
LEGISLATION WOULD SET UP VOLUNTARY MEDIATION SYSTEM TO GET QUICKER SETTLEMENTS WITH LESS LEGAL FEES
As part of an initiative to address the growing doctor shortage in New Jersey, Assemblywoman Amy H. Handlin has a proposed medical malpractice reform that will give injured patients and their healthcare providers the option to pursue an early offer mediation process.
“One of the biggest challenges New Jersey has to keep and attract quality physicians is the high cost of medical malpractice insurance rates. An Early Offer mediation process would lower those rates by reducing time and money wasted in the legal system by patients who choose a more efficient process,” Handlin, R-Monmouth, said. “Without serious reform, New Jersey will be short 3,000 doctors by the end of the decade. That is not a healthy scenario for our state.”
Handlin’s bill, A-3293, would establish a voluntary mediation system to resolve medical injury claims as an alternative to a lawsuit. Injured patients could choose to request an early offer of settlement from the healthcare provider. If accepted, the provider would negotiate a fair settlement to pay for economic losses, attorney’s fees and injuries, based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Practitioner Data Bank severity scale.
“Injured patients would receive a settlement and resume their lives more quickly. Healthcare professionals would save money and time and gain cost certainty,” Handlin said. “This voluntary process will lead to fair settlements for patients and doctors while preserving all existing legal protections for both groups. The only casualties of this reform will be unnecessary lawsuits, exorbitant legal fees and high insurance rates.”
The reform is based on a program recently enacted in New Hampshire: http://www.nhearlyoffer.com/.
This is part of Handlin’s initiative to reduce New Jersey’s doctor shortage, which is projected to reach 3,000 by 2020. Those numbers could be optimistic as a recent survey showed one in 10 existing doctors plan to leave New Jersey: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9931653.htm.
More than 75 of Handlin’s constituents contacted her office with concern about the length of time it takes to get a doctor’s appointment now.