HB1346 / SB956
An Act removing the liability cap for malpractice resulting
in serious injury or death

Joint Committee on the Judiciary

The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), on behalf of its member hospitals and health systems, physician organizations and allied healthcare providers, appreciates this opportunity to offer testimony in opposition to HB1346/SB965, “An Act removing the liability care for malpractice resulting in serious injury or death.”

HB1346/SB956 proposes unwarranted changes to the state medical malpractice law and statutory protections related to charitable and public employer liability limitations. The current malpractice standard was created by Section 222 of Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012, in which the legislature struck a careful balance in updating the charitable immunity cap to increase the amount that applies to medical malpractice awards. Specifically, the legislature increased the cap from $20,000 to $100,000 for medical malpractice claims against healthcare providers. This provision of Chapter 224 was developed after careful consideration and agreement by healthcare providers, malpractice attorneys, patient advocates, legislators, and other public officials.

Despite consensus agreement on a meaningful standard, HB1346/SB956 now seeks to create multiple exceptions to the law. In doing so, this bill fails to take into consideration that many charitable providers of healthcare, such as hospitals, derive a majority of their revenue from public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. They are also employment drivers of the commonwealth, while providing universal access to emergency-level services, often at an operating loss. At the same time, they ensure that the care they provide meets the highest standards that are measured through numerous federal, state, and national accreditation forums. In order to continue providing essential healthcare services and a broad range of important community benefits to their communities, they must remain financially stable.

During a time of continued cuts to non-profit healthcare providers, it is necessary that there be public protections in place to help preserve continued 24/7 access to emergency care and other urgent services for every community in the commonwealth. This is especially important for the many hospitals that are operating under the slimmest of margins. Imposing new exceptions to the current balance of public protection for such organizations would threaten access to community-based services and programs, as these providers would be forced to allocate already-limited charitable assets to increased liability coverage. For this reason, MHA urges the committee to reject HB1346/SB956.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on this matter. If you have any questions regarding this testimony, or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA's Senior Vice President of Government Advocacy at (781) 262-6055 or msroczynski@mhalink.org