Following remarks by President Bush, Thursday in Scranton, Pa., where he addressed the medical malpractice insurance crisis sweeping the nation, a letter was forwarded to the White House from a group of doctors.
January 16, 2003
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Bush:
On behalf of The Doctors Company, a professional liability provider owned by its 28,000 physician policyholders, we commend you for the bold leadership you have shown in addressing the medical malpractice liability crisis that is sweeping the nation.
Your support of HR 4600-the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2002-was key to its passage in the House last year. The recent realignment of Congress presents a unique opportunity to take necessary action that will benefit patients and physicians. We urge you to continue to pursue the vital reforms contained in the HEALTH Act of 2002 in the new Congress.
The liability reforms in HR 4600 were based primarily on those contained in California’s landmark Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975 (MICRA). MICRA’s elements, particularly the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, have stabilized premiums and safeguarded access to care in California by eliminating the “lottery” aspects of jury awards while preserving a patient’s right to take legal action.
The Doctors Company urges you to continue to vigorously pursue much-needed liability reform. Effective medical malpractice tort reform will:
* Remove the “jackpot justice” aspect from the system yet result in significantly faster settlements for injured parties. California’s cap
on noneconomic (“pain and suffering”) awards, along with its law allowing judgments to be paid on an annual basis over the intended
period of compensation, has cut the settlement time in California by up to one-third and reduced the settlement costs by half.
* Ensure that injured parties are adequately compensated for their medical and economic costs, and that they retain a larger share of the award. California addresses this issue – as HR 4600 did – by limiting attorney contingency fees based on a sliding scale.
* Significantly reduce the need for defensive medicine. Studies,
including the Health and Human Services report of July 2002 have shown that defensive medicine drains tens of billions of dollars from the nation’s health care system each year. This money would be better spent on other health programs you have advocated that will offer new and expanded services to Americans.
* Most importantly, preserve access to care for patients across America. In many states – including your home state of Texas – doctors are abandoning their practices because they cannot afford insurance premiums. Americans of all economic levels are losing access to trauma care, obstetric care, community clinics, and experienced physicians in many specialties.
The Doctors Company was founded on the principle of protecting the practice of good medicine, and we remain dedicated to reforming the medical-legal system. We have waged campaigns for 26 years to achieve a better balance between the rights of plaintiffs and defendants, and we will continue to seek legal reform that protects physicians against the seemingly limitless expansion of potential liability.
We pledge to support your efforts and work with Congressional leaders to enact meaningful and effective medical malpractice liability reform. To that end, we offer our extensive data, experience, and the testimony of our physician leaders and liability specialists for your efforts to assist medical practitioners and patients nationwide. We would be pleased to work with your staff to provide any assistance of this type we can offer in the fight for sensible reform.
Thank you again for setting medical malpractice liability tort reform as a top priority for your Administration. The Doctors Company looks forward to fighting alongside you on behalf of patients and physicians in the coming months.
Richard E. Anderson, M.D., F.A.C.P., Chairman, Board of Governors
Manuel S. Puebla, President, Member, Board of Governors
Jerrald R. Goldman, M.D., Chairman, Government Relations Committee,
Board of Governors
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