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Senate Committee Considers Specific COVID-19 Liability Protections For Medical Providers

The Indiana Statehouse in Feb 2021.

The Indiana Statehouse (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

Indiana senators are considering a second COVID-19 liability bill aiming to further protect medical providers from lawsuits more than a month after passing through the House.

House Bill 1002 would broaden protections for medical providers beyond the legislation already signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in February.

Except in a case with evidence of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, people would be unable to file a lawsuit due to issues claimed to have arisen from COVID-19, including staffing shortages and care provided outside of one’s area of expertise or specialty.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

Health care groups testified in the Senate Judiciary Committee the additional bill is needed to give protections the other one, SEA 1, was lacking. It includes immunity for issues they say came from the pandemic – such as staff shortages exacerbated at nursing homes.

Dr. Eric Fish is the president and CEO of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour. He said the past year has been difficult for those who work in health care with reduced staff due to retirements and constantly updated requirements.

“New guidance and regulations came out regularly from CMS, CDC, the Indiana State Department of Health, sometimes on an hourly basis, especially early on requiring facilities to update their protocols and continually educate and reeducate staff on ever changing processes. All while dealing with an influx of COVID-19 patients,” said Fish.

But Ashley Hadler, with the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, said the bill is too broad and unnecessary. She said the current language would prevent some people from getting legal justice for rape, death and lack of care in nursing homes. 

“Falls, pressure sores, they arise from ordinary negligence and this bill grants immunities for ordinary negligence,” said Hadler. “So I will ask each of you what you will tell these families who were harmed between now and 2025, if this bill passes as is.”

Fish said it’s important that the bill doesn’t provide blanket protection but says it is needed through 2025 with the uncertainty of the future.

The bill is scheduled to be amended and voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.

Contact reporter Samantha at shorton@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @SamHorton5.

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