Bill 112-36, introduced in 2021 by Guam Senator and Speaker Therese Terlaje (D), aims to repeal Guam’s Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act (MMMAA), with the intent of changing the arbitration process for the island’s patients. Arguing that the process of arbitration is too expensive for patients, Speaker Therese Terlaje claims that healthcare professionals should prioritize the accessibility of arbitration for the island’s patients through the bill. Terlaje says from one of the hearings, “It is a temporary division because we’ve highlighted, perhaps, something we don’t look at or talk about. And that is, there is a disparity. We are already divided when it comes to the ability to pursue certain types of claims”.
The introduction of the bill has caused a major upset within the medical community of Guam as doctors argue that implementing the bill would result in a shortage of incoming practitioners and even cause current doctors to leave the island. The Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act allows doctors to gain arbitration insurance, resulting in the medical community claiming that it would be harder to practice under the bill. Additionally, under Guams Medical Malpractice Mandatory Arbitration Act, clients were required to be screened by a panel of arbitrators, whereas Bill 112-36 would replace this process and allow for a pre-screening court process. The process still allows for each case to be considered and examined carefully, allowing a judge to make a decision rather than requiring arbitration as part of the process.
Acknowledging that the high price of arbitration cases lowers arbitration accessibility for many patients, doctors insist that the bill is not the most productive solution since making more doctors avoid high-risk cases would be worse for Guam’s patients. Hearings aren’t the only way the medical community has expressed their opposition to the bill. Many of the island’s doctors and nurses organized a press conference when the bill was originally introduced, spreading awareness of the debate and expressing the concerns that the medical community has for the bill. Bill 112-36’s substitute version (Substitute Bill 112-36), implemented in 2021 after several court hearings, is in use instead of Bill 112 as court hearings are still being set for doctors to voice their opinions on the effects it will have on Guam’s healthcare.