AMA Joins Push for Washington Med-Mal Reform

September 22, 2004

The American Medical Association (AMA) joins the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) for a National House Call this week to urge voters to sign on to Initiative 330 to help restore fairness and balance to Washington’s broken medical liability system and protect patients’ access to care. Washington is one of 20 states in crisis, according to the AMA, where physicians are forced to limit vital services such as delivering babies, reading mammograms, and providing trauma care and brain surgery because of the fear of being sued and the uncontrolled costs of the legal system.

“Washington patients have a unique opportunity to take action to protect the future of health care in their state,” said AMA Immediate Past President Donald J. Palmisano, MD, JD. “State legislatures in many states — including here in Washington — have been unable to enact proven reforms. By signing on to I-330, Washington patients can make sure action is taken.”

Dr. Palmisano pointed to a 2003 victory in Texas where the legislature enacted reasonable limits on non-economic damages, and a majority of voters approved a change to the state constitution that ratified the reforms.

“For two years we have trusted our legislators to act on proven reforms, and for two years a few obstructionist politicians have turned their back on patients,” said WSMA President Jeff Collins, MD. “I-330 is an opportunity for patients to have their say.”

Specific provisions of I-330 include maximizing the amount of money patients, not personal injury lawyers, recover when monetary damages are awarded; compensating patients for 100 percent of their economic losses while creating a $350,000 limit (up to possibly $1.05 million) for non-economic damages; and guaranteeing payments over time to ensure injured patients receive on-going benefits.

“Our patients want medical liability reform,” Dr. Collins said. “A recent survey found that 72 percent of Washington voters support limits on the amount of money juries can award for non-economic damages, and 78 percent of voters feel that without limits on non-economic damages, the price of health care will increase significantly.”

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