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Governor Signs Medical Malpractice Reform Revision

Revisions to New Mexico’s Medical Malpractice Act will take effect at the start of the new year—including the recently signed House Bill 11, which will help independent health care providers secure insurance coverage.

Through the passage of House Bill 75 during the 2021 legislative session, the state expanded the list of qualified healthcare providers covered under the act and addressed caps on medical malpractice claims along with other malpractice reform.  

But the original language of the 2021 bill left independent providers unable to find insurance for the new year, leading to the introduction of HB11 in a special session. State Representative Dayan Hochman-Vigil, a co-sponsor of the bill, says the new legislation clarifies the original intent of lawmakers.  

“A lot of the insurance carriers were concerned that by including any reference to a parent agency, that could then lead one to believe that these independent providers were apparent agents of a hospital, which had a $4 million cap beginning January 1, 2022,” Hochman-Vigil said. “The original intent of HB75 was to only have a $750,000 cap for medical malpractice injuries as it refers to independent healthcare providers.”

Hochman-Vigil says the new revisions, which were signed into law Wednesday, also include accommodation for independently owned outpatient facilities.

“We're talking about your X-ray associates, your New Mexico orthopedics, New Mexico radiologists, these types of outpatient facilities that render services,” Hochman-Vigil said. “They were going to be subject to a $4 million cap beginning January 1 and their insurance carriers simply told them no...by delaying implementation of the $4 million cap a couple of years, we're actually giving ourselves more time to figure out what the problem is.”

Without malpractice insurance, independently owned outpatient facilities would have been forced to shut their doors. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a press release that the new bill is a common-sense fix.

“Supporting New Mexico’s medical providers and protecting the patients they serve is important business,” Lujan Grisham said. “I’m glad to have the chance to sign into law this common-sense fix, and I’m grateful to the Legislature for their quick action on this matter.”

Hochman-Vigil says that medical malpractice reform was desperately needed in the state of New Mexico. She stresses the new reform will better protect New Mexicans from experiencing instances of medical malpractice while also ensuring those who provide critical care can continue to do their jobs.

“We need to make sure that we are fairly compensating victims of medical malpractice, you know there have been some horrific instances of medical malpractice that have really damaged people's lives, with also protecting doctors and healthcare providers, letting them know that they have adequate protection and insurance available,” Hochman-Vigil said. “We need to create an environment where health care providers want to be in New Mexico.”

Madison Staten was a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media from 2020-2022.