President Bush Tackles Medical Liability Reform During Pa. Visit

October 21, 2004

President George W. Bush used a visit to the United Sports Training Center in Downingtown, Pennsylvania on Thursday to address the matters of medical liability reform and health care.

Joined by his daughter on the campaign swing through the Keystone State, Bush noted that, “Barbara and I just had a chance to meet with four doctors from the area, and a patient, Charlene Ware. And the docs were all telling me you got a problem here. We’re going to talk about health care here today. I want to thank the docs for taking time to visit with me to share their concerns. And part of my address today is to share their concerns with you, because in order to make sure we’ve got a good health care system, we’ve got to make sure you have good professionals remain right here in your neighborhood to help solve the problems you have.”

While discussing several areas of concern, Bush went on to say that, “Another major area that needs reform is health care. We have made a good start. And in a new term, I will build on our efforts to improve America’s health care. Health care is an essential issue in this campaign, and it’s an essential issue in Pennsylvania. And that’s why I’m delighted to come here to talk about it. Across America, small business owners are struggling with the high cost of providing health insurance for their employees. Some workers have lost good coverage because they have changed jobs. Women have lost doctors they trust because of frivolous lawsuits. We need to act on these concerns. And we need to act in a practical, responsible way.”

In a new term, Bush said he would take five practical steps to make health care more affordable and accessible in America. Among them:

“We must fix our broken legal system. Junk lawsuits – junk lawsuits are expensive for doctors and hospitals to fight in court. They are expensive to settle out of court. They drive up the cost of liability insurance for every doctor, and they increase the cost of health care for all Americans.

“To avoid junk lawsuits, many doctors practice defensive medicine. They order tests and write prescriptions that aren’t really necessary just to protect themselves from lawsuits. That’s what happens in a society that has too many lawsuits. The practice of defensive medicine raises costs for patients and small businesses and adds about $28 billion a year to the federal budget. Remember, the federal budget takes care of Medicare and Medicaid and veterans, and the practice of defense medicine runs up the cost to the federal government, which really runs up your tab. See, you pay for it. When we’re talking about the government’s money, we’re really talking about your money. We want our doctors focused on fighting illness, not on having to fight lawsuits.

“The effects of the litigation culture are real in the state of Pennsylvania. They are hurting the quality of life in this state. Medical liability premiums are skyrocketing in this state, as they are in other states. For specialists in high-risk fields, like OB/GYN, those premiums have doubled or tripled in some counties since 2000. And guess what happens. Docs leave the practice of medicine.

“In the past two years, Mercy and Methodist Hospitals in Philadelphia both stopped delivering babies. The quality of life is deteriorating because of these lawsuits. Brandywine’s only trauma center was forced to close. The quality of life is deteriorating because of the junk lawsuits. According to a recent poll, one in four people in Pennsylvania have been forced to change doctors in the last year because liability costs have forced their doctor to move, to stop practicing, or to discontinue procedures. And every time a good doctor is forced out of a community by lawsuits, or the fear of lawsuits, the quality of life deteriorates.

“Not long ago I met Mary Coar from Honesdale. Her OB/GYN had to give up delivering babies because of liability concerns. When Mary was four months pregnant she started driving 50 miles each way to see a different doctor. When Mary’s daughter arrived this summer she was delivered by a doctor she had never met. When a mother is looking forward to having a baby, the last thing she needs is uncertainty about her health care. For the sake of women and families across this state and this country, we need medical liability reform.

“The difference between my opponents point of view and mine is very clear on this issue. He has voted ten times against medical liability reform during his Senate career. This year when the Senate considered bills to protect OB/GYNs and trauma physicians Senator Kerry opposed them. Now, I know we’re in a campaign, and he’s paying lip service to legal reform, but it’s his votes and his actions, not his words, that really count. He can run from his record, but he cannot hide.

“In a new term, we’ll pass real caps on non-economic damages. This is a national problem requiring a national solution. And I will lead the United States Congress to pass medical liability reform.”

Editor’s note: See a related item from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America in National News.

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