FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) – A bill requiring an independent panel to review medical malpractice claims has successfully moved from the Kentucky Senate floor to the House, but has not progressed in more than a month.
The bill, SB 4, was primarily sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado and was co-sponsored by Sens. Damon Thayer, Rick Girdler, Stan Humphries, Alice Forgy Kerr, Stephen Meredith, Whitney Westerfield, Max Wise, Danny Carroll and Dan Seum.
It was introduced in Senate on Jan. 3 and passed 23-13 in the Republican-held Senate on Jan. 5. Alvarqado, Thayer, Girdler, Humphries, Kerr and Meredith did not respond to messages seeking comment on the bill's status in the House.
The bill states that unless all parties involved agree to go directly to court, the complaint should be reviewed by an independent panel before it can move forward. The panel would consist of one attorney and three health care providers, with the attorney acting as the panel chairperson.
To choose the chairperson, the parties can agree upon an attorney. If no attorney is chosen, the director of the Kentucky Bar Association will give a list of potential attorneys and draw five names randomly. The parties will take turns, with the plaintiff going first, eliminating names off the list until one remains. The plaintiff must pay a $25 fee for this process.
As for the health care providers, it states, “Those health care providers who are natural persons, whether in the teaching profession or otherwise, who hold a valid, active license to practice in his or her profession in Kentucky shall be available for selection as a member of the medical review panel.”
The parties will give a list of name of health care providers for the chairperson to draw from.
Once the panel is chosen, both parties may submit evidence to be reviewed. Two or more members of the panel must agree that evidence shows there was or was not malpractice.
The opinion will be issued within six months of the complaint being filed. That opinion can be used as evidence in the court if the case is able to move forward.
People who serve on the panel will be compensated. The chairperson will receive $250 per diem and travel expenses. The other members of the board will receive $350 for the work and travel expenses.
Since being moved into the House, many amendments have been added onto the bill, primarily from Sen. Ray Jones II, the minority floor leader. Many of those amendments would make the bill seemingly less effective, such as exemptions for sexual abuse and overprescribing or incorrect prescribing of medication, as well as, using the bill to establish a registry of decubitus ulcers, pressure sores, and other lesions caused or exacerbated by inadequate care in a long-term care facility through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
This has been a piece of legislation the Republicans have pushed for a while but despite being a Republican-held House, no progress has been made since moving into the House.