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Where Have All the Doctors Gone?
Possibly to states with protections against medical lawsuit abuse.
The Frederick News-Post reported that Maryland patients are facing a critical access to care crisis due to physician shortages, and the problem is only going to get worse unless the state enacts comprehensive medical liability reforms. Maryland’s average medical liability award is nearly $320,000 – about $35,000 more than the national average – and the state has no reasonable limits on non-economic damages.
Currently, Maryland only has 178 doctors per 100,000 people, well under the national average of 212 per 100,000 people. In the growing Frederick County area, there are only two full time practicing neurosurgeons.
Massachusetts is facing a similar problem. A recent survey by the Massachusetts Medical Society found that 50% of graduating medical students planned on practicing in other states, and only 13% of currently practicing physicians are under the age of 35. Last year, liability costs rose 5.3% for Massachusetts physicians.
You might try looking for these doctors down in Texas, which was facing a similar access to care crisis before enacting medical liability reform in 2003.
To read more about the access to care crisis in Maryland, click here, and here for news of the Massachusetts doctor shortage.
Toward A Healthier Economy
In an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this month, former Speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation, Newt Gingrich, argues in favor of liability reform not only to promote access to care and the well-being of Pennsylvania’s patients, but also as a way to help the economy in these difficult times.
Mr. Gingrich writes, “Maybe states that have not yet adopted comprehensive civil-justice reforms, such as Pennsylvania, should strongly consider them. Such states should approach civil-justice reform as a way to make the economy grow, create jobs, and reduce the rolls of the uninsured – all while improving access to health care.”
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that states could save 3 percent to 4 percent of their total health spending by imposing reasonable limits on noneconomic damages – in Pennsylvania, that adds up to nearly $2 billion per year. What is Governor Rendell waiting for?
To read Newt Gingrich’s op-ed, click here.
A Trial for Health Courts
As PPN waits for Congress to take up health care reform later this year, bits and pieces of plans for medical liability reform are making their way into the national debate. One idea is the establishment of so-called health courts, at least on a trial basis as pilot projects in certain states or hospitals. Philip Howard, chairman of Common Good, argues in his New York Times op-ed that these specialty health courts will eliminate the $1 trillion in wasteful health care spending each year.
The verdict is still out on health courts, and their effectiveness in solving the patient access to care crisis, but Protect Patients Now will continue to monitor Congress’s approach to health care reform in hopes that meaningful medical liability reform can be enacted this year. To read the op-ed about health courts, click here.
Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas, a former obstetrician in North Texas for 25 years, re-introduced the Medical Justice Act in Congress last month. The bill is modeled after the successful reforms enacted in his home state in 2003 and includes reasonable limits on the non-economic damages.
“We need national, across-the-board change in the tort reform system, and my bill would do just that. Runaway lawsuits are unnecessary and costly, and reforming medical liability must be a part of the national health care debate,” Congressman Burgess said. Click here to read more about the Medical Justice Act.