AMA Labels Mass. 20th Med-Mal Crisis State

June 15, 2004

The American Medical Association is maintaining that Massachusetts has become the 20th state in a “full-blown medical liability crisis” due to its deteriorating medical liability climate and the growing threat of patients’ losing access to care.

“The AMA is disheartened that the medical liability environment in Massachusetts has deteriorated to the point where physicians are restricting services, and patients are losing access to care,” said AMA President Donald Palmisano. “Until lawmakers enact proven reforms, our nation’s crisis will only get worse.”

Recent data from the Massachusetts Medical Society provides a snapshot of how patients’ access to care may be in jeopardy as increased medical liability costs force physicians to restrict the services they provide, including no longer performing trauma surgery or delivering babies. High-risk specialists in Massachusetts reducing their scope of practice include:

• 50 percent of neurosurgeons
• 41 percent of orthopedic surgeons
• 36 percent of obstetricians
• 29 percent of general surgeons

“The situation outside of Boston is particularly worrisome,” said Palmisano, who pointed to reports from the Massachusetts Medical Society that there are only 23 neurosurgeons based outside of metro Boston to serve 39 hospitals, and the time to recruit a neurosurgeon has increased from nearly 23 months in 2002 to nearly 30 months in 2004.

“Our patients have world-class physicians and health care institutions, but this crisis has been steadily eroding the quality of our health care system for many years,” said Massachusetts Medical Society President Alan Woodward. “This crisis drives up costs, restricts patients’ access to care, and prevents physicians from providing the most optimal and efficient care. For many physicians, it has become the final straw driving them out of medicine.”

Massachusetts now joins Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming as states in crisis, according to the AMA.

“We urge Massachusetts’ state and federal lawmakers to look to proven remedies when considering medical liability reform,” said Palmisano.

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