While Palmisano said that MAG had heard from defense attorneys citing examples of payment guidelines being introduced into malpractice proceedings, Clark said his association is not aware of a single instance where a medical malpractice suit was based on a doctor's failure to meet a payment guideline.
The law was based on model legislation drafted by the American Medical Association's Advocacy Resource Center, and the AMA issued a news release quoting Dr. Patrice Harris, an AMA board member, who said the measure was designed “to make it clear that federal standards or guidelines designed to enhance access to high-quality health care cannot be used to invent new legal actions against physicians.”
“The decisive action of Georgia lawmakers holds the line against medical liability abuse and helps avert more civil actions against physicians, which increase medical liability insurance premiums and reduce access to healthcare for Georgia's patients,” added Harris, an Atlanta psychiatrist.
The 7,000-member state medical association issued its own release that stated the law created a barrier protecting Georgia doctors from a number of “ancillary guidelines” included in the Affordable Care Act.
“Physicians in the country are already held to a nearly perfect standard, which is why we have the best medical care in the world,” Dr. W. Scott Bohlke, MAG president, said in a news release. “These guidelines, including factors like healthcare quality measures and payment adjustments and value-based payment modifiers, don't have any direct ties to the medical profession in Georgia, these are simply cost-management tools for the federal government and other third-party payers.”
Palmisano said that MAG worked with the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association to craft the final language on the bill.
Since it was developed from model legislation, Palmisano said it could be expected that other states will follow Georgia's lead on this issue, though he said no other state physician associations have contacted him yet.
Before being signed by the state's Republican governor, the bill passed the state legislature in March with a 134-35 vote in the state House and a 49-2 vote in the state Senate.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Donna Sheldon, a Republican from the northern Georgia town of Dacula. “Georgia doctors and other medical providers should be able to continue practicing without unnecessary or unexpected intrusions by the federal government,” Sheldon said in a news release.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks