P.A.P.A to Lead Malpractice Protest Starting April 28th

April 22, 2003

Pennsylvania’s Politically Active Physicians Association (P.A.P.A.) announced that a statewide protest aimed at reforming medical liability insurance laws will begin on April 28.

The bulletin said the organization was “frustrated by the lack of substantive action by Pennsylvania to reform medical liability insurance,” and urged doctors to “exercise their constitutional right to protest.” The group hopes to “unite physicians and patients together, so as a combined force they could inform the government what patient access to care will become if the state fails to alleviate a problem that is forcing Pennsylvania’s physicians out of state.” The doctors want lawmakers to set caps on non-economic damages at $250,000, along with several other measures.

“Participating Pennsylvania doctors have cancelled all non-elective surgeries, office visits and other routine care during the protest,” said the bulletin. It went on to explain, however, that “physicians will not leave emergency patients at risk during the protest.” Doctors will continue to operate “on a Sunday schedule,” while “Emergency Rooms will remain open where doctors will be on-call. Patients will be triaged according to the severity of their complaints. Hospitals and physicians throughout the region are fully equipped to handle any emergency, and patients with ongoing life sustaining treatment such as dialysis, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment, should see no disruption.”

P.A.P.A. President James Tayoun, D.O., stated; “Pennsylvania patients have already lost 1,100 physicians, and we need to stop the hemorrhaging before one more physician is forced out of business. Pennsylvania has been designated a ‘code blue’ state by the American Medical Association in terms of its medical liability insurance crisis. Physicians know how to react to a code blue, but it seems that our leaders in Harrisburg do not.”

The group cited independent studies of the med mal problem, which have concluded that “large states with caps on non-economic damages have below-average medical loss costs for physicians. Conversely, the large states without caps have the highest medical malpractice costs. Pennsylvania was number one on a list of the 15 largest states. Losses per physician averaged 171% higher than the national average.”

It blames “frivolous lawsuits” as the main cause of “skyrocketing premiums,” and noted that “on average, less than 2 percent of all suits filed ever reach a verdict for the plaintiff and up to 70 percent of all claims result in no claims to the plaintiff. Yet the hope of one jackpot award for emotional damages fuels the lawyer to file more and more lawsuits. Personal injury lawyers take up to 40 percent of any amount awarded to their clients plus litigation costs. Some estimates have patients receiving less than 37 cents for every dollar the system collects in medical liability premiums.”

The P.A.P.A. singled out California’s MICRA law as a particularly good example of how imposing caps on damages regulates malpractice premium increases. It noted that since the law became effective in 1976 “California’s medical liability premiums have increased by 168%. Meanwhile, the rest of the states have seen their rates increase by more than 500%, Pennsylvania increased greater than 1500%.” It also rebutted trial lawyers’ assertions that caps on non-economic damages translate into less money for victims by citing statistics that show “on average an injured patient in California receives $14,000 more than he or she would without MICRA.”

Anthony Coletta, M.D., a member of P.A.P.A. added, “Patients, not trial lawyers, deserve more compensation. Placing caps on non-economic damages, while allowing for unlimited economic damages, will allow this to happen. Patients must realize that this protest is about health care being delivered by the best doctors in Pennsylvania. The best and the brightest are leaving. Right now, the system is in favor of the trial lawyers and this makes patients and physicians the real losers in a battle they can ill afford to lose.”

“P.A.P.A. was formed by concerned medical practitioners to ensure quality medical care can continue to be delivered to patients. The Association is committed to educating the public and the legislative bodies as to the escalating problems that have arisen to lessen the effectiveness of medical care to those needing such care,” said the group’s announcement.

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