February 2012 Newsletter


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  • February 29, 2012

Recap of Reform at HCLA Annual Meeting

The Health Coalition on Liability and Access met in Washington, DC earlier this month to discuss recent developments at the state level and hear from medical liability reform experts and Members of Congress on the path towards reform in 2012.

Speakers at this year’s Annual Meeting included Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), Dr. Timothy McDonald of the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, attorney Mark Behrens of Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, and Mike Glasstetter of the American Medical Association.

Representative Stearns, the sponsor of the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, spoke about the need to protect medical volunteers from meritless lawsuits during large-scale disasters – a key legislative priority for the HCLA this year.

“How many medical professionals would volunteer to help [in a disaster] if we get this bill passed?” Representative Stearns asked. “It would save lives, and it’s the right thing to do.”

Additional topics on the agenda at this year’s meeting included efforts to ensure patient safety, defending state reforms against efforts by personal injury lawyers to overturn them, and an update on legislative achievements at the state level.

“I look forward to our continued work with the members of the coalition, and our leaders in Congress, to fix this system by reducing costs, limiting the practice of defensive medicine and keeping personal injury lawyers from getting between patients and their health care providers,” Chairman Mike Stinson said in closing the meeting.

Thank you to all of those who attended! We hope you found the speakers engaging and informative. Click here to view the photo album from this year’s annual meeting.

Fear Factor

The fear of medical lawsuit abuse is changing the way that students are trained at one prominent medical school, and similar scenarios are likely playing out in medical schools across the country.

According to a recent article in American Medical News, a survey of 202 fourth-year medical students and third-year residents at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found that 94% of students and 96% of residents have seen examples of defensive medicine in their training.

Nearly half of the students and residents both indicated that they had often ordered more tests than were medically necessary, and an overwhelming majority of both groups said their attending physician implied that they take concerns about medical liability lawsuits into consideration when making clinical decisions.

With the next generation of physicians being taught to practice defensive medicine, health care costs will continue to skyrocket, and patient access to care will continue to be threatened unless medical liability reform legislation is passed at the federal level.

To read more about how liability fears are factoring into the training of medical students and residents, click here.

Liability Concerns Influence Practice Decisions

A unique study of orthopedic surgeons has detailed the impact of defensive medicine on their patients and health care costs, and further underscores the need for immediate action at the federal level to reduce meritless lawsuits.

A web-based survey sent to 2,000 orthopedic surgeons in the United States found that a staggering 96 percent had practiced defensive medicine by ordering tests, referrals, or hospital admissions.

Comprehensive medical liability reform could drastically reduce this practice – as well as health care costs – and ensure that high-risk patients have access to specialty orthopedic care.

As reported in the February issue of the American Journal of Orthopedics, 77 percent of respondents reported they would reduce or discontinue practicing defensive medicine if significant medical liability reform were enacted.

Many physicians reported practicing negative defensive medicine due to liability concerns: 84 percent reported reducing the number of high-risk procedures they performed, and 70 percent reported reducing the number of high-risk patients they saw.

Protecting patients’ access to specialty physicians, including orthopedic surgeons, must begin with the passage of meaningful medical liability reform. Click here to read more about how liability concerns are changing the way orthopedic surgeons are practicing medicine.

Editorial Board

Support for medical liability reform reached the editorial pages of several publications this month, leaving patients and physicians with a renewed optimism about the progress of legislation making its way through Congress.

In an opinion piece for American Medical News, President of the American Medical Association Dr. Peter Carmel argues that “The economics are irrefutable, and the human evidence is sobering. The present medical liability situation in this country is adding to the already high cost of American medical care, driving physicians away from certain geographies and practice specialties — and shortchanging patients in the process.” Click here to read Dr. Carmel’s full commentary and support of medical liability reform.

Congressman Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, writing in The Hill, urges President Obama to work with members of the Judiciary Committee on common-sense reforms to tough issues.

Regarding medical liability reform, Congressman Smith writes: “The president should do more than just consider working with Republicans on medical liability reform. He should support the HEALTH Act to help reduce the cost of health care for all Americans.” To read his full opinion piece, click here.

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