October 2011 Newsletter

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  • October 31, 2011
Protect Patients Now

Volume 6, Issue 10 OCTOBER 2011 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

HCLA Issues Rapid Response in Support of Liability Reform
Physicians Play Defense Against Personal Injury Lawyers
Signs of Success in Mississippi
Texas Patients Reaping the Rewards After Reform

HCLA Issues Rapid Response in Support of Liability Reform

The HCLA and other physician organizations have petitioned members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to include medical liability reforms in their final report to Congress – a notion that was opposed this month on the editorial page of the New York Times.

The editorial stated that it was “not the job” of the supercommittee to include medical liability reforms in its deficit reduction report – to which the HCLA disagreed in a response to the editor:

“In response to your October 6 editorial, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access respectfully disagrees and believes it is the job of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to consider all avenues of cost savings in their recommendations to Congress, including medical liability reform.

“The “supercommittee” has a crucial opportunity to do something that preserves patient access to quality care and achieves billions of dollars in savings ($62.4 billion over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office).

“While this is not a cure-all for our nation’s budget woes, it’s certainly not “chump change” either. Clearly, the $1.2 trillion in cuts needed will not come from just one or two line items.

“Comprehensive medical liability reform is good for patients and a useful starting point worthy of inclusion in the Committee’s recommendations to Congress.”

The HCLA and Protect Patients Now will continue to actively push for federal medical liability reforms at every opportunity in order to help reduce unnecessary health care spending and our national deficit, as well as to ensure all patients get the care they need, when they need it most. You can get involved in our grassroots efforts by clicking here and contacting your Member of Congress today.

Physicians Play Defense Against Personal Injury Lawyers

A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine last month further confirms that physicians often find themselves playing defense, and are forced to order more tests than they feel are necessary in order to guard themselves from personal injury lawyers and frivolous lawsuits.

About one in four physicians practices medicine more aggressively by ordering additional tests and making more referrals than they would like to do – and 75 percent of physicians surveyed said the reasons were related to liability concerns.

“The study shows how various factors, such as preventing lawsuits, seem to favor more aggressive medical care,” said internist Brenda Sirovich, MD, a co-author of the study.

Dr. Sirovich hopes the study will change the perception that more care always equals better care.

Comprehensive medical liability reform, as part of the HEALTH Act currently making its way through Congress, will help curb the practice of defense medicine and allow doctors to best treat their patients without the threat of unnecessary lawsuits. To read more about how liability concerns lead to the prescription of more tests and referrals, click here.

Signs of Success in Mississippi

A report in the Medical Liability Monitor this month showed that liability insurance rates have plateaued at high rates in many states across the country, but one state that took an aggressive approach to liability reform is seeing success – in the form of lower costs for patients and physicians.

Last year, Mississippi physicians benefited from one of the largest rate decreases – paying, on average, 11 percent less in premiums than the previous year.

Family physician Thomas Joiner, MD, president of the Mississippi State Medical Association, cited the strong reforms passed in Mississippi nearly a decade ago.

“Not only have rates plummeted, but medical liability lawsuits are down significantly. It’s a win-win all the way around,” Dr. Joiner said. “As far as medicine is concerned, [tort reform] was a home run.”

That means a big score for patients, as they benefit from lower health care costs and greater access to care throughout the state. To read more about how liability reform has paid off for Mississippi patients, click here.

Texas Patients Reaping the Rewards After Reform

The good news following reform of the medical liability system in Texas seems to be about as never-ending as the Rio Grande. Consistent reports of more physicians, lower costs, and greater access to medical care are all attributed to the comprehensive reforms passed in 2003.

Prior to 2003, the health care system in Texas had reached a tipping point. Good physicians left the state in droves, high costs left care unaffordable, and patients were forced to travel further and further for emergency care.

Now, patients are getting the urgent care they need – when they need it most.

An editorial piece this month profiles just how dramatic the Texas turnaround has been for patients.

“Thanks to the passage of lawsuit reforms, medical care is now more readily available in many Texas communities. For many patients, this change has been life-altering; for some, life-saving,” writes Dr. Howard Marcus, a physician and chairman of the Texas Alliance For Patient Access.

To Andrya Burciaga, it means finding an obstetrician that handled her high-risk pregnancy – something her physician would have avoided prior to reforms.

To George Rodriguez, it means being able to walk following a spinal injury, after he was able to undergo surgery by a neurosurgeon who relocated to Texas because of the favorable liability climate.

And to all Texas patients, it means improved access to quality medical care – leading to six million more doctor visits annually. To read more about how patients in Texas continue to benefit from sweeping liability reforms, click here.


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