With the Florida Legislature due to close its regular session this evening without passing malpractice reform, about 70 specialists in Jacksonville plan work slowdowns to start at midnight tonight, and some doctors in other parts of the state may follow their lead.
Doctors are upset that the Florida House and Senate have passed completely different reform packages that are going to be hard to reconcile in a special session, expected to convene in June.
The House has passed a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, which is what doctors and Gov. Jeb Bush asked for.
But the Senate, rather than passing the cap, passed three bills of its own. Those bills would force med mal carriers to roll back premiums; provide immunity from malpractice suits for doctors working in emergency rooms; and create a state malpractice insurance company.
Francesca Plendl, legislative director of Florida Medical Association, says there are rumors that Senate leaders would accept a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, with exceptions for egregious conduct that would raise the cap to $1 million or more. But she says she has not been able to confirm the rumors and that FMA would oppose this sort of "soft cap."
Meanwhile, five large Jacksonville specialty groups are limiting or stopping services, and Plendl says she has heard reports that doctors in other parts of the state will follow suit.
Seventeen general surgeons at North Florida Surgeons in Jacksonville will only do post-operative care starting at midnight, says Janice Ivey, administrator of the practice.
Ivey reports that six of them plan to use the free time to interview for jobs in California, Virginia, South Carolina and Arkansas.
She says the doctors' malpractice insurance is up for renewal on July 1, when rates will rise by 25% to 30%.