Health Pricing Transparency Goes into Effect

Massachusetts is the first state to establish health care pricing transparency in consumer-friendly formats. The 2012 proposal for health care insurers to post prices for consumers went into effect on October 1, 2014. This law changes the industry landscape by allowing individuals to be more conscious in their health care decisions, especially since more individuals are covered and paying percentages of utilization under new health care reform insurance plans.

Massachusetts Hospital Owes No Duty for Former Employee’s Past Abuse

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held on October 1, 2014, that a Massachusetts hospital did not owe a duty to abuse victims for a former employee’s conduct while practicing at a hospital in North Carolina decades later.

The court said the Massachusetts hospital had no duty to warn future employers of the risk the ex- employee may impose. Under the circumstances, the North Carolina hospital did not inquire with the Massachusetts hospital about the employee, so if the Massachusetts hospital had reason to believe that the former employee posed a foreseeable risk to future employers it would have had to seek out every possible future employer of the ex-employee, a burden that is ultimately too high. The court also held that the Massachusetts hospital and the third-party plaintiffs had no “special relationship,” because the employee had not worked for the hospital in twenty-four years. Additionally, if a “special relationship” was found, the class of third-party plaintiffs would pose a tremendous liability on the Massachusetts hospital as a former employer, because the hospital would thereby be responsible for every patient seen by every former employee.

Massachusetts State Law Caps Hospital Group Damages after Violating EMTALA

A federal Massachusetts court upheld a state law that limits a charitable organization’s liability in tort cases. In this case, a husband sued a hospital group that made the decision to transport his ailing wife to another hospital. When in transport, they were directed to a third hospital where the plaintiff’s wife died. The plaintiff claims that the hospital violated the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which prohibits transferring emergency room patients before first stabilizing them.

The defendant argued that their hospital was a charitable organization and under the State of Massachusetts charitable immunity law §85(k), their liability “shall not exceed the sum of twenty thousand dollars exclusive of interests and costs.” The plaintiff argued that the defendant is a large organization  that should not be shielded from liability, and that it had profits of $46 million the year his wife died, and revenues of over $650 million. The federal court disagreed with the plaintiff, saying that his argument was one for state lawmakers and not the courts.

Massachusetts Rule Proposal for Technology Proficiency Qualification for Physician License

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine proposed a rule that would require physicians to prove that they are proficient in using electronic health records and health information technologies as a prerequisite to seeking any physician or osteopath license. This new rule would apply to physicians seeking a new license or those renewing their license.

A physician could prove proficiency in one of four ways: i) be a participant in stage one of the meaningful use program; ii) be employed by a hospital that is a participant in stage one of the meaningful use program; iii) be a participant of the Massachusetts Health Information Highway (the state’s health information exchange); or iv) complete a course that teaches electronic health record use and reviews the meaningful use program objectives.

The American Medical Association (“AMA”) initially raised concerns regarding the legislation, arguing that it would burden practicing physicians who are trying to renew their medical licenses. The AMA has since publically changed its views because there are more ways that a physician can meet the requirement than strictly through the meaningful use program. The legislation must be made final by January 1, 2015.