Penn. Doctors, Patients Gather to Urge Med Mal Reform

January 22, 2002

Pennsylvania’s ongoing medical liability insurance crisis has generated a rare alliance between the State’s doctors, health care professionals and their patients, culminating in a gathering in Harrisburg, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PMA). Returning legislators will be urged to take quick action to adopt needed reforms, particularly measures to curb the soaring amounts of recoveries from medical malpractice lawsuits.

Five days in late January, the 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30, have been designated as “Save Pennsylvania Medicine Days.” In addition, on January 29 at 1:30 p.m., the Pennsylvania Section of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists will host a rally in the Capitol Rotunda “to highlight the need for corrections to abuse of the medical liability system that is dragging down health care for women.”

“Pennsylvania’s liability insurance crisis is having a chilling effect on patient care and patients are the ones being left out in the cold,” stated Howard A. Richter, MD, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and a neurosurgeon from Delaware County. The PMA warned that “reforms are desperately needed to control escalating insurance costs and to preserve the patient- doctor relationship.”

The PMA said the most urgent issues are patient safety, reform of the State’s Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe(CAT) Fund and lawsuit abuse. “Research clearly shows that as liability insurance costs go up, patients begin to experience inconveniences,” indicated Dr. Richter, who explained that recent statistics indicate a decline of specialists including obstetricians/gynecologists and orthopedic surgeons.

He added that a 2001 survey conducted by the PMA shows that 72 percent of doctors have either deferred the purchase of new medical equipment or have not hired much-needed staff as a result of the sudden and sharp increases in liability insurance.

The announcement, which coincides with the legislature’s reopening after the holidays, sited statistics showing that Pennsylvania has some of the country’s highest rates for liability insurance.”On the heels of a 21 to 60 percent increase in 2001, insurance carriers significantly raised their rates for 2002 as high as 70 percent.”

It blamed legal actions, sting that, “Driving premiums through the roof are excessive sums awarded in malpractice suits. Pennsylvania ranks second among states in terms of total payouts for medical litigation. For fiscal year 2000, Pennsylvania’s total was $352 million — nearly 10 percent of the national total.”

Dr. Richter concluded that the PMA wasn’t trying to abolish recoveries from malpractice suits, but to reform “our legal system so that it stops bleeding our health care system.”|”penn., doctors,, patients, gather, urge, med, mal, reform

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