Richard Piatt ReportingAn Arbitration compromise bill, which has the support of the Intermountain Health Care, moved from a committee to the full Senate this morning. This bill makes arbitration optional for IHC patients. It also requires a three-member panel when the arbitration process is triggered.
The committee decided to bring the arbitration bill to the full Senate so it could debate it. It would give patients the choice of voluntary arbitration, mediation or the courts to settle medical malpractice claims. Final decisions by arbitrators would also become public record.
IHC prefers arbitration as a way to reduce skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums. One OB/GYN testified tentative support for the compromise, but says there are many other doctors who have reservations.
Dr. Jane Bowman, OB-GYN, Cottonwood Hospital: "When we were able to establish binding arbitration last year as a way to reduce rising liability costs, we all thought we saw light at the end of the tunnel. We now feel that's being taken away from us. We feel the issues, we feel the issue is being muddled by bad doctors and secrecy and that really isn't the issue."
This same committee rejected a competing bill that called for only one arbitrator instead of three, further reducing costs. The bill would have also required written and verbal disclosures about arbitration agreements.
Supporters of those ideas haven't given up yet---they're hoping the proposal might be modified during the process