SENATE BILL 445
56th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2023
Gay G. Kernan
RELATING TO TORTS; AMENDING THE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ACT; REQUIRING THE SUPERINTENDENT OF INSURANCE TO APPROVE PROPOSED SETTLEMENTS PAID FROM THE PATIENT'S COMPENSATION FUND; LIMITING RECOVERY OF PAST AND FUTURE MEDICAL CARE AND RELATED BENEFITS FROM THE FUND; REMOVING A REQUIREMENT FOR SURCHARGES TO BE SET WITH THE INTENT OF BRINGING THE FUND TO SOLVENCY.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. Section 41-5-7 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1992, Chapter 33, Section 5, as amended) is amended to read:
"41-5-7. MEDICAL EXPENSES AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES.--
A. Awards of past and future medical care and related benefits shall not be subject to the limitations of recovery imposed in Section 41-5-6 NMSA 1978.
B. The health care provider shall be liable for all medical care and related benefit payments until the total payments made by or on behalf of it for monetary damages and medical care and related benefits combined equals the health care provider's personal liability limit as provided in Subsection I of Section 41-5-6 NMSA 1978, after which the payments shall be made by the fund.
C. Awards of past or future medical care and related benefits shall not be paid from the fund unless the amount of the award was actually paid by or on behalf of an injured person and accepted by a health care provider as payment for services rendered.
D. Awards of future medical care and related benefits shall only be paid from the fund as the expenses are incurred. Payments from the fund for future medical care and related benefits shall not be paid in a lump-sum payment.
[C.] E. Beginning January 1, 2027, any amounts due from a judgment or settlement against a hospital or outpatient health care facility shall not be paid from the fund if the injury or death occurred after December 31, 2026.
[D.] F. This section shall not be construed to prevent a patient and a health care provider from entering into a settlement agreement whereby medical care and related benefits shall be provided for a limited period of time only or to a limited degree.
[E.] G. A judgment of punitive damages against a health care provider shall be the personal liability of the health care provider. Punitive damages shall not be paid from the fund or from the proceeds of the health care provider's insurance contract unless the contract expressly provides coverage. Nothing in Section 41-5-6 NMSA 1978 precludes the award of punitive damages to a patient. Nothing in this subsection authorizes the imposition of liability for punitive damages where that imposition would not be otherwise authorized by law."
SECTION 2. Section 41-5-25 NMSA 1978 (being Laws 1992, Chapter 33, Section 9, as amended) is amended to read:
"41-5-25. PATIENT'S COMPENSATION FUND--THIRD-PARTY ADMINISTRATOR--ACTUARIAL STUDIES--SURCHARGES--CLAIMS--PRORATION--PROOFS OF AUTHENTICITY.--
A. The "patient's compensation fund" is created as a nonreverting fund in the state treasury. The fund consists of money from surcharges, income from investment of the fund and any other money deposited to the credit of the fund. The fund shall be held in trust, deposited in a segregated account in the state treasury and invested by the state investment office and shall not become a part of or revert to the general fund or any other fund of the state. Money from the fund shall be expended only for the purposes of and to the extent provided in the Medical Malpractice Act. All approved expenses of collecting, protecting and administering the fund, including purchasing insurance for the fund, shall be paid from the fund.
B. The superintendent shall contract for the administration and operation of the fund with a qualified, licensed third-party administrator, selected in consultation with the advisory board, no later than January 1, 2022. The third-party administrator shall provide an annual audit of the fund to the superintendent.
C. The superintendent, as custodian of the fund, and the third-party administrator shall be notified by the health care provider or the health care provider's insurer within thirty days of service on the health care provider of a complaint asserting a malpractice claim brought in a court in this state against the health care provider.
D. The superintendent, as custodian of the fund, or the superintendent's designee, shall evaluate and approve a proposed settlement if any amount of the proposed settlement is to be paid from the fund.
[D.] E. The superintendent shall levy an annual surcharge on all New Mexico health care providers qualifying under Section 41-5-5 NMSA 1978. The surcharge shall be determined by the superintendent with the advice of the advisory board and based on the annual independent actuarial study of the fund. The surcharges for health care providers, including hospitals and outpatient health care facilities whose qualifications for the fund end on January 1, 2027, shall be based on sound actuarial principles, using data obtained from New Mexico claims and loss experience. A hospital or outpatient health care facility seeking participation in the fund during the remaining qualifying years shall provide, at a minimum, the hospital's or outpatient health care facility's direct and indirect cost information as reported to the federal centers for medicare and medicaid services for all self-insured malpractice claims, including claims and paid loss detail, and the claims and paid loss detail from any professional liability insurance carriers for each hospital or outpatient health care facility and each employed health care provider for the past eight years to the third-party actuary. The same information shall be available to the advisory board for review, including financial information and data, and excluding individually identifying case information, which information shall not be subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act. The superintendent, the third-party actuary or the advisory board shall not use or disclose the information for any purpose other than to fulfill the duties pursuant to this subsection.
[E.] F. The surcharge shall be collected on the same basis as premiums by each insurer from the health care provider. The surcharge shall be due and payable within thirty days after the premiums for malpractice liability insurance have been received by the insurer from the health care provider in New Mexico. If the surcharge is collected but not paid timely, the superintendent may suspend the certificate of authority of the insurer until the annual premium surcharge is paid.
[F.] G. Surcharges shall be set by October 31 of each year for the next calendar year. [Beginning in 2021, the surcharges shall be set with the intention of bringing the fund to solvency with no projected deficit by December 31, 2026.] All qualified and participating hospitals and outpatient health care facilities shall cure any fund deficit attributable to hospitals and outpatient health care facilities by December 31, 2026.
[G.] H. If the fund would be exhausted by payment of all claims allowed during a particular calendar year, then the amounts paid to each patient and other parties obtaining judgments shall be prorated, with each such party receiving an amount equal to the percentage the party's own payment schedule bears to the total of payment schedules outstanding and payable by the fund. Any amounts due and unpaid as a result of such proration shall be paid in the following calendar years.
[H.] I. Upon receipt of one of the proofs of authenticity listed in this subsection, reflecting a judgment for damages rendered pursuant to the Medical Malpractice Act, the superintendent shall issue or have issued warrants in accordance with the payment schedule constructed by the court and made a part of its final judgment. The only claim against the fund shall be a voucher or other appropriate request by the superintendent after the superintendent receives:
(1) until January 1, 2022, a certified copy of a final judgment in excess of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) against a health care provider;
(2) until January 1, 2022, a certified copy of a court-approved settlement or certification of settlement made prior to initiating suit, signed by both parties, in excess of two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) against a health care provider; or
(3) until January 1, 2022, a certified copy of a final judgment less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) and an affidavit of a health care provider or its insurer attesting that payments made pursuant to Subsection B of Section 41-5-7 NMSA 1978, combined with the monetary recovery, exceed two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).
[I.] J. On or after January 1, 2022, the amounts specified in Paragraphs (1) through (3) of Subsection [H] I of this section shall be two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000)."
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