Archives: March 2010

Guest Blogger: Rep. Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) on Obamacare’s Impact on Doctors

As the health care reform debate began over a year ago, the American Medical Association, the top doctors group in the country, released a list of its top priorities for health reform. The AMA is a powerful association, and many have credited it with helping to kill HillaryCare, so the organization, of which I am a member, was in a good position to impact President Obama’s health care reform plan and accomplish some of doctors’ long-awaited goals. Remember, without doctors, there is no health care, so it is important that health reform address the issues that are important to doctors and will help them keep their doors open and better serve America’s patients. Two of the AMA’s top priorities are also two of the main reasons I decided to run for Congress almost 10 years ago – repealing the flawed Medicare physician payment formula, and nationwide medical liability reform. Unfortunately for doctors, Democrats in Washington, who have had control of Congress for over 3 years, have shown absolutely no signs of seriously addressing either of these issues. But with the AMA’s clout, I was hopeful that this time, with comprehensive health care reform a major goal for President Obama, these…

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Litigation Fears Impact Physician Work Hours

A new study published in the Journal of Law and Economics (2009;54:635-663) has revealed that physicians work fewer hours when their risk of litigation increases. Researchers Eric Helland, of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., and Mark H. Showalter, of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, found that physicians work an average of 1.7 hours less per week when their expected medical liability risk rises by just 10%. The researchers calculated that a reduction of 1.7 hours per week is the same as “one in 35 physicians leaving a workforce entirely, or about 21,000 physicians.” The study was conducted using data about medical liability risk in each state gathered from insurers. Data was broken down by specialty, and physicians were surveyed about workload and income. The study also found that older physicians (aged 55 years and older), and those with their own practice were more likely to be affected by increased liability risk. Just as the increase in medical liability risk resulted in decreased physician hours, the opposite was true as well. Results indicated that when liability risk decreased, for example when tort reforms such as caps on damages were enacted, physicians saw more patients per week.

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Tenn. Doctors Continue Pursuit of Malpractice Caps

Tennessee doctors pushed for Congress to put caps on malpractice awards, but the health care reform bill signed into law this week by President Obama sets no such limits. Now, the Tennessee Medical Association is pinning its hopes on the next General Assembly. The organization will question legislative candidates about malpractice caps, then post their stances on its Web site. “It’s important as we go to the polls in November that if you are concerned about this that you find out what your candidate’s position is on medical liability reform,” said Dr. Michael Minch, president-elect of the TMA. Tennessee is losing doctors – especially those who practice high-risk specialties – to states that have enacted malpractice caps, he said. The TMA just released a survey of 120 state doctors. The survey, conducted during December and January, gauged the climate for practicing medicine in Tennessee since the passage of a 2008 state malpractice law. That law reduced the number of “frivolous lawsuits,” said Minch, but it did not enact caps on non-economic damages. Ninety-six percent of survey responders said defensive medicine costs remained a serious problem, while 87 percent said future physician supply was also a serious problem. “Even though 60…

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Ga. court upholds key medical malpractice changes

A sharply divided Georgia Supreme Court on Monday upheld a key part of a sweeping 2005 law that made it more difficult for patients to win medical malpractice cases involving emergency health care providers. The court’s 4-3 ruling was a blow to plaintiff’s attorneys and other critics of the legislation who argued the higher standard of proof required by the law made it almost impossible for patients injured by emergency room workers to win malpractice claims. Critics of the law took another hit Monday when the court released a separate ruling, this one by a 5-2 vote, that upheld a provision that allowed one side in a lawsuit to pay the other side’s legal fees in some cases. They had argued the practice could discourage many victims from bringing legitimate claims to court. The court will likely issue a third ruling this month on a lawsuit that challenges the law’s $350,000 limit on jury awards for malpractice victims’ pain and suffering damages. The lawsuit involving the emergency room provision was brought by Carol Gliemmo, who said an emergency room doctor at a Columbus hospital failed to detect a debilitating illness in April 2007 when she came in complaining of sudden…

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Ga. court upholds key medical malpractice changes

A sharply divided Georgia Supreme Court on Monday upheld a key part of a sweeping 2005 law that made it more difficult for patients to win medical malpractice cases involving emergency health care providers. The court’s 4-3 ruling was a blow to plaintiff’s attorneys and other critics of the legislation who argued the higher standard of proof required by the law made it almost impossible for patients injured by emergency room workers to win malpractice claims. Critics of the law took another hit Monday when the court released a separate ruling, this one by a 5-2 vote, that upheld a provision that allowed one side in a lawsuit to pay the other side’s legal fees in some cases. They had argued the practice could discourage many victims from bringing legitimate claims to court. The court will likely issue a third ruling this month on a lawsuit that challenges the law’s $350,000 limit on jury awards for malpractice victims’ pain and suffering damages. The lawsuit involving the emergency room provision was brought by Carol Gliemmo, who said an emergency room doctor at a Columbus hospital failed to detect a debilitating illness in April 2007 when she came in complaining of sudden…

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