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Who Pays for Medical Lawsuit Abuse?
It’s not just patients and doctors. It’s every single taxpayer and wage earner in America. According to a new study published by “Health Affairs,” escalating medical liability awards and premiums pushed up Medicare spending by an astounding $15 billion between 2000 and 2003. Not surprisingly, much of this added cost came from an increased use of imaging services, commonly associated with the practice of defensive medicine. Read the full
The ER Crisis Hits Delaware
Delaware’s trauma system is generally thought to be one of America’s best, but unfortunately, Delaware patients may soon experience first hand the spreading patient access to care crisis that is crippling our nation’s emergency rooms. Last week, The News Journal, of Wilmington, Delaware, reported that two of the state’s four downstate hospitals were forced to downgrade their trauma status due to a shortage of orthopaedic surgeons.
“This glitch is a warning sign,” said Dr. Michael Rhodes, chief of surgery for the Christiana Care Health System, “a symptom of a national problem beginning to rear its head in this state.” Read more here.
As The News Journal reports, the problem is in the Delaware state capitol where lawmakers have consistently rejected medical liability reform efforts, forcing doctors to retire early or leave the state for friendlier climes like Texas, where tort reform has turned the state into a magnet for doctors.
Delaware legislators should heed the warning of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform Chairman Stuart L. Weinstein, M.D., who was featured in a recent, syndicated article on the national ER crisis that has now reached over six million readers: “The question more and more people are asking is, will I be able to find the doctor I need when I need him most.” Read more here.
Good News from Two Former Crisis States
More proof, this time from Illinois and Mississippi, that medical liability reform works. Only two years after Illinois placed reasonable limits on non-economic damages, the flight of insurance companies from that state has been dramatically reversed with the decision of Medicus Insurance Company to enter the market there. Prior to reform, Illinois’s 17 insurance carriers had been reduced to only 5. Medicus, which will now be number six, is also offering lower rates due to the improved liability climate. This is good news for Illinois patients, consumers and doctors. Read more about the latest developments in Illinois here.
The situation is also improving in Mississippi, where only five years ago the legislature had to create a subsidized liability insurance program to keep doctors from leaving the state. Thanks to medical liability reform, that public company is now healthy enough to go private. Read more about progress in Mississippi here.
New York, New York, What a Mess!
We reported last month on the patient access to care crisis in New York, where the state’s insurance superintendent described their condition as “the worst of both worlds – physicians who cannot afford to practice medicine and insurers whose financial condition is rapidly eroding.”
Somewhat counter-intuitively, the response of the superintendent was to raise allowed insurance rates another 14% for doctors. According to a recent report in The New York Sun, this hike will hit right on top of the 175% increase in insurance rates paid out by hospitals in the years 2000 to 2007. Read the full story here.
Hospitals receive a double whammy: increasing liability costs for the institution plus the expense of insuring the doctors who work there. With costs on the rise, and no end in sight, patient care is already suffering. How long will it be before New York opens its eyes to the need for comprehensive medical liability reform?