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Archive for Thursday, March 22, 2007

Health care bill raises consumer concerns

March 22, 2007

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— Attorney General Paul Morrison, victims of medical malpractice and plaintiff's lawyers on Wednesday criticized legislation that would exempt health care professionals from the law that allows consumers to sue over deceptive practices.

"This bill would prevent my office from investigating the most deceptive and unconscionable acts committed by anyone in the health care industry," Morrison said.

But Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, and health care professionals defended the measure, saying it would limit lawsuits while there were other legal remedies that could be used for patients who allege they were wronged in their health care.

"This is not about exempting doctors from claims against them," O'Neal said.

House Bill 2530 would exempt professional services by a physician or health care provider from the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

Opposing sides of the legislation squared off before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which took no action on the bill. The measure was approved last week by the House, 109-14.

O'Neal argued that patients could still sue for medical malpractice if their health care or treatment were botched by a health care professional.

Jerry Slaughter, executive director of the Kansas Medical Society, said the bill was needed because the Kansas Supreme Court in a recent decision expanded the scope of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act to include deceptive acts by health care professionals.

"Our intent is not to immunize or protect physicians, but to return to where the law was," he said.

But Morrison, plaintiff's attorneys and advocates for the elderly and patients disagreed.

They said medical malpractice laws allow patients to sue for poor treatment or care, while the Kansas Consumer Protection Act allows for lawsuits against doctors who make false claims in advertising or in their claims about certain treatments. The recent court ruling, they said, simply stated the parameters of the act and didn't expand its reach.

Margaret Farley, an attorney from Lawrence, representing Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said the bill favored doctors "strictly over the needs of consumers of health care."

Opponents of the bill asked that the measure be submitted for further study after the legislative session is over.

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