The latest iteration of the COVID-19 relief package from Congress has taken many turns, and it hasn’t even been finalized yet. Some points of contention include:
- Hospital bailout money
- Medicaid protection funds
- Liability protections for health care professionals
Hospital funding is tricky, as well as a moving target. While elective procedures all but stopped in the spring, some hospitals have reported larger than expected earnings during the first half of the year. The current proposed bailout amount is floating somewhere around $25 billion, and while that may seem like a huge infusion to keep hospitals afloat, the industry’s original request was $100 billion.
Medicaid is also tricky, in that it’s supposed to be largely funded by individual states. But when certain states are on the verge of bankruptcy (and it’s a matter of opinion as to whether those reasons are entirely COVID-related), who but the federal government can provide a large enough bailout? The current bill is requesting roughly 12 – 14% in matching federal dollars. One main caveat in this federal bailout is that states cannot cut enrollment numbers while they are taking in the money from the federal government.
On the liability side for hospitals and health care professionals, the bill seeks to provide protections against COVID-related lawsuits. Further, the bill also proposes capping allowable damages if in fact those protections aren’t enough. But neither immunity nor a cap can literally prevent someone from filing suit. And fighting a suit, even if it is eventually dismissed, is costly. Not only in dollars, but in time, morale, and reputation. No one wants this burden when trying to triage patients, but it’s a sad reality for most in the health care industry.
Not all of the potential liability is related to COVID-19, though. Elective procedures that were canceled might have long-term effects on patients, even if they never had the virus. Other potential risk areas include employee protections (ranging from lack of PPE to burnout to overtime pay), misdiagnoses, ratio of personnel to patients, and equipment shortages, to name a few.
As with any legislation, this is largely a waiting game. If you haven’t already, educate yourself about the relief bill. And call your representative so that your voice is heard. Then call your medical liability carrier to see how all of this affects you.
Contact us today. We can review your professional liability policy to ensure your coverage aligns with current mandates and guidelines.