Protect Patients Now

Volume 6, Issue 8 August 2011 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

NEJM Study Reconfirms Need for Medical Liability Reform
Doctor Gone Missing? Check Texas.
Jobs Agenda Includes the HEALTH Act
North Carolina Voters Support Liability Reform

NEJM Study Reconfirms Need for Medical Liability Reform

A study in this month’s New England Journal of Medicine provides the most comprehensive analysis of the risk of liability claims by medical specialty in more than two decades, and reinforces the need to put an immediate end to medical lawsuit abuse.

The study reports that in any given year, an average of 7.4 percent of doctors are faced with medical liability lawsuits, but nearly 80 percent of those claims result in no payment at all by the defendant.

The likelihood of being faced with a medical liability lawsuit did not necessarily correlate to payment by a physician – further proof that the system is broken and does not serve the needs of patients.

Neurosurgeons were the most likely to be targeted by personal injury lawyers, with over 19 percent of all neurosurgeons facing a medical liability lawsuit each year. However, they were less likely to be found negligent, and ranked 4th behind other surgical specialties in payments made to claimants.

Unfortunately, over the course of a career, doctors practicing in high-risk specialties such as neurosurgery, thoracic-cardiovascular surgery, and orthopedic surgery were nearly guaranteed to face a medical liability lawsuit, with 99% these physicians expected to be sued at least once in their career.

Even physicians in low-risk specialties, including pediatricians and family practitioners, faced a 75% chance of being sued over the course of their career.

Protect Patients Now will continue its work to enact comprehensive federal reform of our medical liability system that ensures fair compensation to deserving patients and preserves patient access to quality medical care. To read the full study by the New England Journal of Medicine, click here.

Doctor Gone Missing? Check Texas.

If you live in New York and suddenly your doctor is nowhere to be found, you may want to send a search party down to Texas. Since September of 2003, when Texas passed comprehensive medical liability reform, 1,271 physicians from New York have fled south to greener pastures, and friendlier liability climates.

Back in 2003, physicians in New York and Texas were paying about the same for medical liability insurance – nearly $100,000 per year. Since then, New York physicians have seen increases of 60 percent since 2003 – forcing doctors to close their practices, leaving patients with fewer and fewer options for medical care.

Texas physicians have experienced an average decrease of 54 percent in the cost of their premiums since 2003, and can expect an additional 7 percent decrease next year, according to the Texas Medical Liability Trust.

Two OB-GYNs from Brooklyn could no longer afford the cost of their practice in New York, even when delivering up to 10 babies per day. They moved to Houston, where they were able to open two offices and hire six employees.

The positive effects of medical liability reform include an additional 2 million patient visits per year for Texas residents – an incredible increase that can be attributed to the availability of quality medical care.

To read more about how Texas is putting out the welcome mat for physicians, click here.

Jobs Agenda Includes the HEALTH Act

As Congress prepares to get back to work in just a few weeks, the focus up and down Capitol Hill is on jobs and economic recovery. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has put together an ambitious agenda that would protect and grow American jobs, and included in that agenda is the HEALTH Act.

Modeled after successful liability reform laws in California, the HEALTH Act would put an end to medical lawsuit abuse, increase access to care, and reduce federal spending and the national deficit. The Judiciary Committee passed the HEALTH Act last February, and it is now awaiting consideration by the full House of Representatives.

“…I’m hoping to find common ground with the administration on that issue,” Chairman Smith said. “Clearly, frivolous lawsuits cost people their livelihoods, they cost people their reputation, they contribute unnecessarily to medical costs that are passed on to … the patients, and they drive up liability insurance premiums.”

HCLA and Protect Patients Now understands that federal medical liability reform will contribute to the economic recovery, by reigning in our national deficit and bringing down health care costs for all patients. Click here to read more about liability reform and the Judiciary Jobs Agenda.

North Carolina Voters Support Liability Reform

Last month, the North Carolina legislature voted to override Governor Purdue’s veto of comprehensive medical liability reform that includes reasonable limits on non-economic damages, ushering in the likelihood of an increase of physicians and lower health care costs throughout the state.

When North Carolina’s Civitas Institute conducted a poll on the issue this month, it found that 55 percent of those surveyed disagreed with the Governor’s veto of the liability reform bill. Additionally, 52 percent of respondents were more likely to support a state legislator that voted to overturn the Governor’s veto and in favor of fixing a broken medical liability system that costs too much and takes too long.

These results are in line with the HCLA’s own poll conducted in May of 2011, when 58 percent of Americans surveyed nationwide said they wanted their elected representatives in Washington to support comprehensive medical liability reforms.

For more information on the support for medical liability reform in North Carolina, click here.

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