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Protect Patients Now

Volume 3, Issue 9 SEPTEMBER 2008 Newsletter


Special points of interest:

Medical Liability Reform Takes Center Stage at Orlando Conference

Many of the biggest stakeholders in the health care debate convened in Orlando, Florida on September 17 and 18 for a first of it’s kind, bi-partisan conference and medical liability reform took center stage among the participants as a critical part of any potential health care reform package.

America’s Health Care at Risk: Finding a Cure, a major health care event sponsored by DMLR, was opened by a rousing debate between James Carville and Karl Rove, who spent much of their time discussing the political realities of federal medical liability reform. Rove began by announcing that he was a “huge fan” of liability reform, which he noted would not have a big price tag at the federal level but would have “huge implications for the quality and cost of health care in America.” At the same time, he said, “I recognize that the trial lawyers fund the Democratic Party…they’ve got the stroke, but at some point people have to do the right thing and I believe there is some desire to work across party lines” on this.

Carville noted that reform, if it were to have any success, would have to be “part of a larger package somewhere.” On this both agreed, and Rove emphasized that it was critical for doctors to organize and tell their story effectively if federal legislation is to be achieved.

DMLR’s own Dr. James Bean, President of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, also led the call for reform as a leading member of the panel of health care costs, and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) joined the conference via satellite to discuss their health care legislation, finding surprising common ground on the subject of the necessity of solving the liability crisis. You can view these discussions here.

The sponsors, speakers and attendees all agreed that a surprising amount of common ground had been discovered at the conference. The conference hosts are now compiling their findings and will be producing a white paper to serve as a basis for follow up discussions, as well as a guide to Congress as it takes up its priorities next year.

This newsletter will be sure to keep you informed about all future events. To watch a video clip of the complete conference proceedings, click here.

The True Cost of the Medical Liability Crisis

Before doing a superlative job at the conference explaining the effect of the medical liability crisis on patients and health care costs, Dr. Bean penned an incisive op-ed published in several Florida newspapers on the true cost of an abusive system: the exodus of doctors from the profession and declining access to vital medical care for patients.

“It will do little good to provide everyone with ‘universal coverage’ if there are ever fewer physicians available to provide the quality medical care patients need,” Dr. Bean wrote. In Florida, the location of America’s Health Care at Risk conference, he noted that “showing up at an emergency room…with a serious injury has been likened to playing Russian roulette because of the shortage of specialty physicians.” To read the op-ed in full, click here.

Worser and Worser

The political paralysis of New York State’s governing elites is taking its toll on patients and their health care. A one year freeze on medical liability insurance rates, designed to give the state time to come up with a long-term solution to the crisis, seems to have only given politicians an excuse of inaction. One of the results, as reported by the Center for Health Workforce Studies, is that eight New York counties presently have not one single obstetrician and 18 counties have fewer than five. Nationally, medical liability insurance premiums take up about 11% of an OB-GYNs operating budget, but in New York, they are significantly higher – up to about 29%. If this goes on, the state may find itself with one of the lowest birth rates, too. Read the full story here.

Sue ‘Em!

In a surprising twist, supporters of medical liability reform are finding themselves in the role of plaintiffs, urging the Texas Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the state’s landmark reforms. The effort is being spearheaded by Austin attorney Mike Hull on behalf of the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Medical Association. “We have to be certain that the cap is constitutional,” he has said, “and the only body that can tell us that in Texas is the Supreme Court.” Of course, the personal injury attorneys are doing everything they can to keep the case from being heard, as they don’t expect the case to be decided in their favor. Oh, delicious irony! For the full story, click here.

This month, by the way, Texas Liability Trust, the state’s largest liability insurance provider, announced it would cut rates beginning in 2009 – the seventh yearly cut since reforms were passed in 2003. For the full story, click here.

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