Lawmakers want standardized safety regulations before granting providers immunity from coronavirus lawsuits

Radiology and hospital interest groups have pushed hard in recent weeks for the adoption of legal shields to protect their members from a barrage of lawsuits, once the economy reopens. However, U.S. senators said this week that they will not make such a move without the government first putting uniform safety regulations in place across the U.S.

Lawmakers from both parties shared such reservations at a panel hearing held Tuesday. They’re seeking standards with teeth, since current recommendations from the CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are merely suggestions that cannot be enforced, Law360 reported this week.

"The sooner we can come up with a regulatory, OSHA-driven process to allow big, small and intermediate businesses [guidance], the better off we'll be," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said at the May 12 hearing.

During testimony, witnesses representing both workers and employers said they welcome such guidance. Georgetown University Law Center professor David Vladeck also spoke at the hearing and noted that regulatory standards would help providers mount a defense, should they face litigation related to their COVID response.

"We urgently need science-based COVID-19 enforceable guidelines from public health agencies. Those guidelines not only safeguard the public but at the same time they provide the standards of liability," he said according to Law360. "Compliance with those guidelines would eliminate any liability risk."

The Trump administration has reportedly prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing such guidance. Republican lawmakers have called enacting a national legal liability shield a top priority in this next round of stimulus bills, but a Democratic proposal released this week does not incorporate such provisions.

Several states have recently enacted their own malpractice protections for providers. And a handful of major imaging interest groups last week asked leaders of the House and Senate to reduce liability for healthcare workers and emergency responders during the crisis.

Read more about the latest developments on this front from Law360 below.