Poll Says Most Americans Back Medical Liability Reform

February 2, 2005

A new survey released by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) reportedly found almost three-quarters of Americans support legislation to reform the nation’s medical liability system that is driving up the costs of health care and forcing many good doctors out of practice.

ACEP’s President Robert Suter, DO, said emergency physicians are committed to working with President Bush and members of Congress to enact reform in this legislative session, saying it is essential to preserving access to emergency care for all patients.

The survey confirmed that three out of four Americans (75 percent) recognize the current system interferes with physicians’ abilities to provide quality care. Findings include:

* 85 percent of Americans believe the current legal system — with no
consequences for pursuing frivolous lawsuits and publicity about large
monetary awards — is responsible for rising medical insurance costs.

* 73 percent favor liability reform that includes placing limits on non-
economic (pain and suffering) damages.

According to Suter, “The American people – our patients – clearly support medical liability reform. They understand the connection between the current litigious environment and physicians’ ability to provide them with quality care.

“Already, there are reports of emergency physicians and other medical specialists who are unable to get medical liability insurance at all, which means they can’t practice medicine. Without liability reform, there is no end to this growing crisis, and patients will continue to suffer.

“Overwhelmed with patients and under funded, many emergency departments across the United States are at the breaking point, and others have been forced to close. In some states, specialists are refusing to take emergency call, retiring early, or leaving for states with lower premiums. Without liability reform, these doctors will continue to be forced to choose between caring for their patients and leaving the practice of medicine.

“The President’s call for liability reform that enjoys the support of a
majority of Americans is long overdue. We call on members of Congress to work with the Administration on a solution that can be signed into law this year.”

ACEP is a national medical society with more than 23,000 members.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted a telephone survey of 800 registered voters nationwide. The survey sample was proportionate to the country’s demographics, including geography, gender, and ethnicity. The survey, fielded Jan. 25-27 & 29-30, 2005, has a theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.46%.

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