AMA Supports President’s Request for Liability Reform; Arkansas One of 19 States in Crisis

January 26, 2004

The American Medical Association applauded President Bush on Monday for his efforts in support of patients and physicians, and hopes his visit to Arkansas will highlight how America’s broken liability system is severely jeopardizing patients’ access to care. Arkansas was named a state “in crisis” by the AMA in March 2003.

“Because of the millions paid out in jury awards and verdicts, as well as the high costs to defend frivolous lawsuits, physicians’ insurance premiums have skyrocketed in Arkansas and in many other parts of the country,” said AMA President Donald Palmisano, MD, JD. “In the 19 crisis states, physicians are taking early retirement, or abandoning high-risk services, because they cannot afford or find liability insurance.”

More than 50 percent of Arkansas physicians surveyed reported they’ve been forced to reduce or discontinue one or more medical services in the last two years due to rising liability insurance premiums and the threat of being sued, according to research conducted by the Arkansas Medical Society.

“Surgery and other procedures” was cited as the most common service cut, followed by emergency-room care, “treating patients at nursing homes,” on-call duty and obstetrics.

“America’s patients need lawmakers to act now – before the crisis becomes worse,” said Palmisano. “That is why liability reform is our top legislative priority. We support proven reforms to end the medical liability crisis – including a reasonable cap on non-economic damages.”

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