Supporters say bill is a good voluntary option for patients, providers, and businesses

CONCORD, NH – The NH legislature passed SB 406 yesterday, establishing an early offer in medical injury claims. The bill seeks to provide an option for victims of medical injury by allowing them to resolve their claim fairly and quickly, without litigation, while also potentially lowering healthcare costs.

"I am so pleased by this outcome," said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), the prime sponsor of the legislation. "This bill can help avoid expensive litigation and reduce the uncertainty for both patients and providers regarding how a case will be resolved. But most importantly, this bill establishes a voluntary program. Patients can elect to participate in the Early Offer or, if they prefer, choose to go the traditional litigation route. The patient truly is able to select the path that works best for his or her situation. The current 'one size fits all' approach just doesn't work for everyone."

"By passing this legislation, New Hampshire residents will have the opportunity to resolve a medical claim much sooner," said House Majority Leader Peter Silva (R-Nashua). "The Early Offer system is an optional alternative to current law, and has the potential to benefit both patients and providers, while also lowering healthcare costs."

Doug Dean, President and CEO of the Elliot Health System, lauded the legislature's decision.

"For patients, the benefits of this bill are tremendous. Instead of creating a hostile and combative claim process that can be lengthy and drawn out, NH Early Offer will bring patients and physicians together to work out an efficient resolution that benefits both parties. Patients will receive a fast and fair settlement and be able to move on with their lives without the stress of a court trial," Dean said.

The President of the NH Hospital Association, Steve Ahnen, agreed with Dean.

"For those who endure a medical mistake, a settlement within 90 days is far better than a lawsuit that could drag on for years. In fact, such a lawsuit may never result in any relief to the patients or their families," said Ahnen. "Early Offer also defines precisely what the settlement terms will be, so that an injured person can be fully informed before entering the voluntary early offer process."

"This innovative idea gives New Hampshire the opportunity to be a leader in the healthcare field," said Dr. Cynthia Cooper, President of the NH Medical Society. "In typical medical malpractice cases, patients are forced to relive their injuries again and again through depositions and trials, and physicians are forced into an adversarial relationship with their patients – the opposite of what they value. Ideally, a patient should be able to pursue the path he or she chooses if a medical error has occurred. If a patient prefers to seek resolution quickly, to receive a guaranteed financial settlement for lost wages and medical bills and to avoid a lengthy trial process, that option should be available, and the Early Offer system could provide all those benefits and more," continued Cooper.

In addition to patient benefits, the cost-savings realized under SB 406 cannot be ignored. "Businesses of all sizes are suffocating under the weight of health insurance premiums,' said Jim Roche, President of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. "To the extent this bill could streamline the process for resolving medical injury claims, it would reduce the costs of litigation and help alleviate the burden of malpractice insurance and defensive medicine on the healthcare system. This will directly impact health insurance premiums and help businesses struggling to provide health insurance for employees," Roche said.

"We've worked hard to put together legislation that could have a real positive impact on patients here in the Granite State," said Dean. "We look forward to Governor Lynch signing this bill and giving patients an option for fair and fast resolution of medical injury claims."