Western PA Hospital Council Comments on President’s Med Mal Reform Proposals

January 30, 2003

The Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania (HCWP) applauded the remarks made by President Bush in his State of the Union address Tuesday night on medical malpractice reform, noting that it had pushed the issue into the national spotlight and made the adoption of reform proposals, which the HCWP has been advocating, more likely.

“This issue in our region has truly become an issue of access to care for western Pennsylvanians,” stated Ian G. Rawson, Ph.D., HCWP president. “Drastic changes are needed as soon as possible to ensure that people continue to receive the care they need.”

The bulletin noted that “Because of high medical malpractice insurance rates, physicians are leaving the region and the state to practice elsewhere, retiring early, or leaving their medical careers to pursue other careers. In addition, according to an informal survey conducted by Hospital Council, western Pennsylvania hospitals are having a more difficult time recruiting physicians into the region because of high medical malpractice insurance rates. ”

“One of the remedies needed to address this issue is a cap on how much people can collect for non-economic damages,” Rawson stated. “Last night the President urged Congress to pass medical liability reform. This was a heartening message to western Pennsylvania hospitals and physicians. We urge our legislators to act soon — before Pennsylvania loses more medical professionals.”

While the president’s speech may have put the issue in the national spotlight, it remains of great concern to local medical organizations as well; the HCWP has been working with state and federal legislators from throughout western Pennsylvania on the issue. “In fact,” Rawson pointed out, “this issue is such a high priority that there was a standing room only town hall meeting conducted recently by Representatives Melissa Hart and Tim Murphy on this issue. They, along with other legislators, realize the impact of this issue on access to care.”

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