What public gets from special session

Early Thursday morning, the Nevada Legislature did answer one of our questions about its special session on medical malpractice insurance: How will patients be better served?

The bill approved in the wee hours contains some important safeguards and better reporting methods for Nevada's health-care facilities and doctors, which should mean Nevada residents are better informed about the failures.

The safeguards are among the measures pursued through the special session by Assembly members Richard Perkins, Barbara Buckley and Sheila Leslie to help make the legislation more than a quick fix for the insurance industry.

The insurors won their $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, yet the cap doesn't apply to gross negligence by doctors. It's not a bad compromise.

Aside from that, however, the bill makes the state Health Department a "repository for health care quality assurance."

Statistical information on medical-malpractice claims and settlements will be funneled to the Health Department, which will in turn report to the governor and Legislature.

The idea, as lawmakers pointed out, is to try to identify and correct problems that may be systemwide before they get out of control.

The bill approved Thursday morning also clarifies and strengthens the reporting procedures of individual doctors to the State Board of Medical Examiners on malpractice complaints and settlements. The board then continues its role of disciplining doctors and reporting the results to the general public.

If the legislation throws a brighter light on medical practices, it will indeed serve Nevadans by improving the level of health care by exposing the slipshod methods that lead to medical malpractice.


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