Pa. Hospitals Applaud Medical Liability Reform Bill

February 11, 2003

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) praised the efforts of Congressmen Jim Greenwood (R-Erwinna) and John Murtha (D-Johnstown) for reintroducing the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care Act (HEALTH Act).

“The HEALTH Act contains common-sense reforms that will preserve patient access to care,” stated Carolyn F. Scanlan, HAP president and CEO. “By restoring balance to the medical liability system, this bill will keep doctors practicing, keep hospital services open, and keep patients healthy.” The proposals are designed to preserve “an injured patient’s right to collect full economic damages – including medical care and lost wages – while limiting the sky-high ‘pain and suffering’ awards that are crippling our health care system.”

House Speaker Dennis Hastert has given passage of the bill a high priority.

“Pennsylvania’s hospitals are particularly grateful for Congressman Greenwood’s solid leadership on this critical issue, as evidenced by today’s committee hearing at St. Mary Medical Center,” Scanlan continued. “Throughout this crisis, he has recognized that state action – while critically important – must be coupled with a federal solution to solve the medical liability insurance crisis.”

“We also appreciate Congressman Murtha’s support – as well as the support of Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-Downingtown), Melissa Hart (R-Bradford Woods), Tim Murphy (R-St. Clair), John Peterson (R-Pleasantville), Todd Platts (R-York), and Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg) – and we urge members of the U.S. House who care about quality, available health care to sign on to this important patient-access bill,” she added.

Testifying at Rep. Greenwood’s committee hearing, Greg Wozniak, president and CEO of St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, stressed that “Over the last several years, many qualified physicians have left our community because of the increase in liability insurance. In addition, St. Mary and other area hospitals and existing physician practices have experienced tremendous difficulty in recruiting new physicians to fill these gaps. As a result, we face the very real threat that we may have to close some very critical community services such as our trauma center and our program that offers pre- natal and maternity care for low-income families in Lower Bucks County. This bill will help to begin to address these issues.”

He also pointed out that St. Mary’s liability premiums had increased by $2.5 million between 2000 and 2002, noting that this is “equivalent to approximately 40 nurses who could be providing care to our aging population or a state-of-the-art radiation oncology unit to treat cancer patients. These increased premiums directly impact our ability to develop new programs and expand to meet the growing health care needs of our community.”

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