March 24, 2003

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U.S. Senate May Vote on Liability Reform
With the U.S. House of Representatives having passed a medical liability bill on March 13th, the Senate is now poised to vote on a similar bill as early as this week.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is pushing for an early vote on a Senate bill that would, among other things, establish a cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases. In order to defeat an anticipated filibuster, the bill will need to receive the support of 60 senators in order to pass. So far, the only democratic senator supporting liability reform is Senator Diane Feinstein of California.

It is likely that a cap of more than $250,000 will be required in order to attract a sufficient number of democratic votes. The Boston Globe reported in its March 22nd edition that a cap of $500,000 was being considered along with an exception for certain types of injuries.

For more information on the medical liability reform issue, you may visit the AMA in Washington website at

MMA lobbyists will be participating in conference calls with the AMA later today and we will update this article following the call.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Issues Health Advisory
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have received reports of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome from Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The cause of these illnesses is unknown and is being investigated. Early manifestations in these patients have included influenza-like symptoms such as fever, myalgias, headache, sore throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. In some cases these symptoms are followed by hypoxia, pneumonia, and occasionally acute respiratory distress requiring mechanical ventilation and death. Laboratory findings may include thrombocytopenia and leukopenia. Some close contacts, including healthcare workers, have developed similar illnesses. In response to these developments, the CDC is initiating surveillance for cases of SARS among recent travelers or their close contacts.

For more information contact the Mane Bureau of Health or the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100. Updated information will be available at [return to top]

Massachusetts Medical Society Presents to MMA Ad Hoc Committee on Quality
Last Tuesday (3/18), Elaine Kirshenbaum spoke to members of the MMA Ad Hoc Committee on Quality on the activities of the MMS Committee on the Quality of Medical Practice. Ms. Kirshenbaum, who serves as Vice President for Policy at MMS, shared that the MMS Committee has collaborated with a number of other organizations in Masssachusetts to conduct or support activities aimed at improving the quality of medical care.

Representatives of the MMA Committee will meet Monday morning (3/24) with representatives of a similar committee organized by the Maine Hospital Association. A major function of both the MMA and MHA Committees is to encourage collaboration and to seek alignment of the many quality improvement projects initiated by hosptial systems, health plans, and independent organizations such as Medical Care Development. [return to top]

More Program Offerings As HIPAA Privacy Deadline Approaches
With just three weeks to go before the HIPAA Privacy Rule takes effect, MMA and other organizations are busy offering assistance to medical practices as they struggle to meet the deadline. On Wednesday, March 26th, MMA will offer the seventh program in its HIPAA series in Waterville from 8:30am to 1:00pm. Faculty will be Gordon Smith, Esq., of MMA, John Coolong and Carol Male of Baker Newman Noyes and Jeffrey Bardin of Treadstone 71. More information on Wednesday's program, or on an identical program in Ellsworth on April 10th can be obtained from Susan Feener at MMA (622-3374 or

On Thursday, March 27th, the Portland law firm of Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer and Nelson will hold a one-day seminar entitled, "Functioning in Maine Under the HIPAA Privacy Standards." Faculty includes Kenneth W. Lehman, Esq., Karen Douglas, Esq.,and John Coolong and Carol Male of Baker, Newman and Noyes. MMA members may attend at a discounted rate of $50.00. Contact Nicole Morin at 228-7254 for more information. [return to top]

MMA Ad Hoc Committee on Health System Reform
MMA's Ad Hoc Committee on Health Care Reform met on Thursday, March 20th, to continue its work writing a White Paper on health care reform. The Committee reviewed a list of principles and began to discuss a list of items to be included in the Paper. Among the items discussed were the state's establishment of a non-profit health insurance committee, a mandate on individuals purchasing health insurance, and the necessity to have both patients and physicians know the cost of their care. The Committee will meet again on April 10th.

The Association's House of Delegates discussed a resolution on universal coverage at the Annual Session in September which led to the establishment of the Committee. The Committee, chaired by President-elect Maroulla Gleaton, hopes to complete its work by late Spring. [return to top]

Governor's Health Action Team to meet Friday
Governor Baldacci's Health Action Team will meet on Friday, March 28 to continue its work. Each of the several subcommittees is expected to report on their deliberations. The team is likely to focus its attention on the issue of the state establishing its own non-profit insurance company for the purpose of purchasing re-insurance to cover the cost of high cost patients. Other lively topics will include state health planning and the certificate of need program. [return to top]

Doctors' Day, March 30
The Maine Medical Association salutes all Maine physicians on the occasion of Doctors' Day, 2003. Your skill and compassion contribute vitally to the well-being of citizens all across Maine. Thank you for your commitment to Maine health. [return to top]

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