Ill. Physicians Rally to Protect Patients

May 13, 2003

Thousands of patients, physicians and other supporters of medical liability reform are gathering in Chicago’s Daley Plaza Tuesday to urge federal lawmakers to fix what they say is an out-of-control legal system that is seriously threatening patient access to quality health care.

Because of reported unrestrained lawsuits and a “jackpot justice” mentality, some Illinois physicians are being forced to no longer provide certain services such as delivering babies and performing neurosurgery or trauma services. The unrestrained legal climate is causing liability insurance premiums to skyrocket to well over $100,000 for these high-risk specialties.

“An increasing number of our best physicians are choosing to limit the services they provide or leave medicine altogether,” said CMS president Richard Geline, MD. “We are standing together today so that lawmakers in Congress will know that if they continue to do nothing, patients will continue to lose access to the physicians who save lives.”

The rally is being sponsored by the Chicago Medical Society (CMS) and is supported by the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS), American Medical Association (AMA), and more than 55 physician, hospital and other health care groups. Illinois is one of 18 states the AMA considers in a medical liability crisis.

“We would like nothing more than for Illinois state lawmakers to pass proven reforms, but we’ve been down that road before,” said ISMS President William Kobler, MD. “We’re looking toward Congress to act now before our patients are forced to suffer the consequences of decreased access to care.”

Three times, Illinois has enacted medical liability reforms into law. Each time the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled them unconstitutional-a prime factor why the CMS and ISMS are reportedly pressing so strongly for federal action based on the comprehensive reforms that have protected California’s patients and physicians for more than 25 years.

In March 2003, the HEALTH Act, federal legislation based on California’s reforms, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate is expected to consider similar legislation in the coming months, and the three organizations are encouraging patients and physicians to contact their U.S. Senators.

“We strongly urge the Senate to look to proven solutions when considering medical liability reform,” said AMA Chair-elect William Plested, MD. “The AMA strongly supports the physicians here in Illinois and across the country who have the courage to stand up and speak out loud and clear for their patients.”

The reforms contained in the HEALTH Act include:

*Ensuring patients receive 100 percent compensation for their economic losses, including medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and lost wages, if harmed by a physician’s negligence;
*Maximizing the amount of money juries award for patients – not trial
lawyers; and
*Placing a $250,000 limit on non-economic damages, and also allowing
states the flexibility to establish different caps.

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