Another Year, Another Push for Medical Review Panels in Kentucky

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Forcht hearing

Forcht Group CEO Terry Forcht, seated in the front row, takes notes as the Kentucky House Health & Welfare Committee hears debate in March 2012 about a medical review panel bill. Paducah trial lawyer Gary Schaaf, front, argues against the bill.

Rebuffed in each of the last four years, Kentucky legislators who believe medical malpractice claims should first be vetted by a panel of health care providers are again trying to make it law.

This year’s attempt, Senate Bill 6, was filed Wednesday by sponsors Ralph Alvarado, Danny Carroll, David Givens, Max Wise and Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, all Republicans. As in previous years, the bill would require medical malpractice claims to be heard by a three-person panel for an unbinding opinion before proceeding into state courts as civil lawsuits.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has previously examined the long-term care industry’s push for medical review panels, the big money behind it, and the man at the center of the fight, Terry Forcht. (Read: “A Powerful Nursing Home Owner and a Push For Medical Review Panels in Kentucky”)

All earlier Senate bills were passed by the Republican-controlled Senate, but died in the Democratic-controlled House, which never brought it up for a vote. The bill is backed by business and medical groups and opposed by trial attorneys and nursing home patient advocates.

Supporters of medical review panels say they are needed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and lower health care costs. But a Pew Charitable Trusts report in 2003 “found that panels increase overall litigation costs, cause significant claim review delays in some states, have no consistent effect on claim amounts paid, have no consistent effect on malpractice insurance premiums and may or may not encourage the filing of claims.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures review in 2014, 17 states had enacted medical review panel laws, including Indiana, Virginia and Massachusetts.

Read the latest proposal.

Reporter James McNair can be reached at and (502) 814-6543.