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Proposed Michigan Senate Bill 858 (SB 858)(PDF file) could forever alter the quality of care in Michiagn Hospital Emergency Rooms, resulting numerous devastating consequences for Michigan patients, taxpayers, and interested parties.

SB 858 may appear on the surface as an attempt to diminish medical malpractice lawsuits, but when you stop for a second and think about the ramifications of what this legislation would do – the price is too high for the residents of Michigan.

SB 858 would require a plaintiff to show that an emergency room physician committed "gross negligence" and would have to prove that through "clear and convincing evidence." The major problem with that standard is that it would lower our expectations of care in Michigan Emergency Rooms because there would be immunity for any wrongdoing unless it was intentionally done or the action was done with reckless disregard for a person’s safety. Another consequence that must be considered is the disproportionate weight this bill would have on the care of the people who are most vulnerable – namely those folks who need to treat regularly in emergency rooms such as infants, seniors, pregnant women, minorities, and the poor.

At some point, we will all likely have to go to the emergency room. The last thing you will want to worry about while you are awaiting your emergency care is whether or not the care you are about to receive has been compromised as a result of SB 858.

And for those of us who worry about the financial security of state government, realize that this bill almost guarantees that Michigan will never get reimbursed for the Medicaid payments it makes to individuals who are injured as a result of emergency room medical negligence. 42% of all people who enter an emergency room in Michigan are covered by Medicaid. Under the laws we have today, if they are injured by a medical professional’s negligence, and Medicaid continues to pay subsequent hospital bills, Medicaid has a right to reimbursement when that person recovers in a medical malpractice lawsuit. The state gets its money back. But, if SB 858 gets passed, the state deficit will continue to grow.

Contact your state representatives and senators and let them know how you feel about SB 858. Tell them you are concerned that the cost of providing this form of immunity is too high for Michigan.

To find out who your state senator is go to this website.

To find out who your local representative is go to this site.

Lansing. If you live in the Lansing/East Lansing area, your state representative could be either Joan Bauer, Mark Meadows, Barb Byrum, or Rick Jones.

If you live in the greater Lansing/East Lansing area, your state senator is likely Gretchen Whitmer.

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