COVID-19 is prompting significant changes to malpractice laws and regulations at the state and federal levels.
Since COVID-19 arrived in the United States, health care providers have been working tirelessly to address every aspect of the pandemic. The public saw how frontline workers were making sacrifices day in and day out to keep as many people healthy as possible. But even as the media focused on this heroic work, behind the scenes COVID-19 was prompting significant changes to malpractice laws and regulations at the state and federal levels.
Providers should be aware of what has happened and of the changes that may occur in coming months and years.
At medical malpractice insurer EmPRO, we have been keeping a close eye on the pandemic because global health events have the potential to expose both insured clients and insurers alike to staggering liabilities. Thankfully in New York state, where EmPRO is headquartered, the governor and the legislature moved swiftly to enact emergency measures that shielded health care professionals from the worst liabilities. Had they not done so, the pandemic had the potential to lead to the proposal of new, more stringent regulations and policies, which in turn could have resulted in increased premiums.
New York was hit incredibly hard with COVID-19 cases right from the start, with the first confirmed case on March 1, 2020. The legislature and the governor produced the Emergency Disaster Treatment Protection Act (EDTPA), which extended broad immunity to health care providers and facilities.
Around the state, hospitals filled with patients with COVID-19 had to bring in nurses from out of state, bring health care providers out of retirement, build temporary facilities to provide COVID-19 care and enlist doctors, nurses, physician assistants and others to provide services out of title — meaning outside their usual purview of care.
The EDTPA granted them immunity from liability