A new medical malpractice reform proposal is designed to give injured patients and their healthcare providers the option to pursue an early offer mediation process. Assemblywoman Amy Handlin says her planned bill is part of an initiative to address the growing doctor shortage in New Jersey.

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Handlin’s measure would establish a voluntary mediation system to resolve medical injury claims as an alternative to a lawsuit. Injured patients could choose to request an early offer of settlement from the healthcare provider. If accepted, the provider would negotiate a fair settlement to pay for economic losses, attorney’s fees and injuries, based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data.

“One of the biggest challenges New Jersey has to keep and attract quality physicians is the high cost of medical malpractice insurance rates,” explains Handlin. “An Early Offer mediation process would lower those rates by reducing time and money wasted in the legal system by patients who choose a more efficient process.”

Handlin says she’s working to reduce New Jersey’s doctor shortage, which is projected to reach 3,000 by 2020. Those numbers could be optimistic as a recent survey showed one in 10 existing doctors plan to leave New Jersey. More than 75 of Handlin’s constituents contacted her office with concern about the length of time it takes to get a doctor’s appointment now.

Handlin says, “Without serious reform, New Jersey will be short 3,000 doctors by the end of the decade. That is not a healthy scenario for our state.”