Health Plans Launch Ads to Show Med-Mal Crisis in D.C.

July 28, 2005

At a time when Washington, D.C. is grappling with rising health care costs and striving to further improve education and public safety, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is launching an ad campaign designed to demonstrate the magnitude of the medical liability crisis in the District.

The ads were introduced by Karen Ignagni, AHIP’s president and CEO, at a press conference with Mayor Anthony Williams at City Hall in Washington, D.C. Mayor Williams has made medical liability reform a priority for his administration.

“Today marks the beginning of the end of the medical liability crisis that is gripping the District’s patients and doctors,” Williams said. “As is abundantly clear from AHIP’s ads, District residents should no longer have to foot the bill for excessive legal costs and defensive medicine.”

Ignagni said the ads will help D.C. residents put into perspective the true costs of lawsuits and defensive medicine.

“Washington is suffering from and out-of-control liability system that fosters frivolous lawsuits, encourages costly defensive medicine, and drives good doctors out of practice. When they are made aware of the costs of this crisis, D.C. residents will insist on sensible reforms,” claimed Ignagni.

The first ad, “Rotten Apple,” maintains that “With the money D.C. residents will spend this year on the medical liability crisis, the District could hire 4,728 new teachers.”

A second ad, “Busted,” says that “With the money D.C. residents will spend this year on the medical liability crisis, the District could hire 3,463 new police officers.”

The two new ads will be placed throughout the District’s public transportation system, including Metrobuses and MetroRail stations, and placed in local publications. The ads are the latest in AHIP’s five-year campaign to reform the medical liability system, but the first to focus on Washington, D.C.

Williams and Ignagni were joined at the event by Dr. Damian P. Alagia, president-elect of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia. Dr. Alagia said the crisis has prompted his organization to mobilize its physician members in a new “Keep Your Doctor in DC” campaign through which doctors will educate their patients about the costs of the medical liability system.

“As physicians fighting to keep our practices open so we can provide access to quality, affordable health care to our patients, we understand just how serious the medical liability crisis is. We are proud to stand along with AHIP as we work with the Mayor to advance legislation through the City Council that will provide real reform to a medical liability system that is broken,” said Alagia.

A survey conducted in 2004 by the Medical Society of the District of Columbia found that nearly nine of 10 obstetricians and gynecologists have moved, plan to move or are considering moving their practice out of the District because of the crisis.

According to the American Medical Association, nearly four out of 10 D.C. physicians would consider significantly reducing workload hours because of the medical liability crisis. Furthermore, 28 percent of D.C. physicians would consider relocating out of the District, while 31 percent said they would consider ceasing their practice altogether.

“This issue is about the allocation of resources and access to affordable health care for the District of Columbia and the nation. We all pay for lawsuit abuse, either through higher health care costs or barriers to access,” Ignagni said.

Ignagni believes that the campaign will also give the national medical liability reform movement a boost as the House of Representatives considers reform legislation today.

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