House Bill 157

By Executive Director Keith Kerns Esq.

This Bill would change Ohio’s medical liability system.

House Bill 157, introduced by State Representative Jim Butler (R-Oakwood), would dramatically alter Ohio’s medical injury compensation program and make other changes to how Ohio administers the Medicaid program. Rep. Butler hopes to accomplish three primary goals with the legislation: lowering Medicaid spending, lowering overall healthcare spending and applying Medicaid savings to care for needy populations.

To accomplish this mission, his bill would create hospital ER diversion programs, institute price transparency for healthcare services, promote small business health coverage through Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs), incentivize Medicaid recipients to utilize preventative services and reduce defensive medicine by establishing a new Medical Injury Compensation System.  The 386 page bill is aggressive and would impact nearly every stakeholder in the healthcare industry.  For optometry, one provision in the bill stood out as a cause for concern.

HB 157 calls for the creation of a new Health Care Professional Standards Board.  This board would be comprised of three members appointed by the state medical board, one member appointed by the state dental board, one member appointed by the state chiropractic board, one member appointed by the state board of pharmacy, two members appointed by the state board of nursing, and one member appointed by the state board of optometry.  The new board would have immense authority.  It would be charged with investigating malpractice claims brought against providers, imposing discipline against providers, maintaining a database of claims and complaints and establishing the standard of care for health professionals.

While important functions, all of these activities are currently being performed within state or federal government.  State regulatory boards, including the Ohio State Board of Optometry, maintain access to the National Practitioners Data Bank (NPDB) in order to review and investigate malpractice awards.  The boards also establish the standard of care for a profession and impose discipline when warranted.  Finally, the Ohio Licensure System provides public information on formal actions taken against health care providers and the NPDB tracks similar information for use by government entities and insurers.  Simply stated, the functions delegated to the Health Care Professional Standards Board are duplicative and would only serve to create another costly level of bureaucracy within health care system.

The OOA has communicated these concerns to Rep. Butler and other members of the House of Representatives.  At the same time, the OOA acknowledges that medical liability laws are a key component to establishing a cost-effective health care delivery system that keeps medical professionals in Ohio.  But recent tort reform efforts, including the establishment of caps on damages and the creation of a statute of repose, are already helping to achieve these goals.  For optometry, malpractice rates and the number of licensed optometrists are stable in Ohio.  So while there is always value in searching for ways to improve our medical liability system, the current structure appears to be working.  Dramatic changes, such as the creation of a Healthcare Professional Standards Board, could disrupt this stability.

The OOA will continue to monitor HB 157 and other bills impacting the practice of optometry.  Be sure to visit www.ooa.org to view the latest updates on these important legislative issues and to get involved in the OOA’s Key OD grassroots advocacy program.

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