Poll Shows Ky. Voters Want Reform

February 4, 2003

Under the Alliance to Protect Kentucky’s Healthcare, healthcare providers from across the state will join forces to combat the reported downward trend in medical professionals able to serve Kentucky’s needs.

The Alliance cites medical liability abuse as driving up the cost of insurance premiums and diverting resources from medical care to an out-of-control legal system. “The laws in Kentucky foster a growing number of lawsuits hoping for lottery-like jackpot awards and we are seeking to change that,” according to Dr. Donald Swikert, M.D., who is President of the Kentucky Medical Association.

The Alliance to Protect Kentucky’s Healthcare has announced its full support for Senate Bill 1, sponsored by President of the Senate David Williams, as the first step on the road to recovery. “Senate Bill 1 gives the people of Kentucky an opportunity to determine whether legislators should have the flexibility to consider reforms that have been passed in other states,” said Swikert.

To demonstrate their support, healthcare providers from across the state will gather in Frankfort on Feb. 6, at the Farnham Dudgeon Civic Center. After an hour-long briefing about Senate Bill 1, where President of the Senate David Williams will speak, attendees will visit the Capitol to encourage their legislators to support Senate Bill 1.

“This is not a debate about cost anymore, this is a debate about whether or not there will be a healthcare system in Kentucky that can meet the needs of the entire population, in every community,” Swikert said. “If the systematic abuse in medical liability goes un-addressed, we will see more and more physicians limiting or leaving their practices and hospitals cutting services.”

Lawsuits against hospitals average $3.5 million. If that happened to us we would be forced to close. This is real and is happening in other states. We can’t let it happen in Kentucky,” Steve Hanson, CEO of Appalachia Regional Health Care, commented. “A balance must be found to ensure that the system provides equitable resolutions to legitimate claims, not a lottery for jackpot awards,” Hanson added.

If passed in the 2003 Kentucky General Assembly, Senate Bill 1 would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in Nov. of 2004. Once voters amended Kentucky’s Constitution, legislators could consider:

*Establishing an alternate dispute resolution mechanism;
*Placing limits on non-economic or “emotional” damage awards;
*Addressing the time frame which medial liability claims are filed.

The Alliance has released the findings of a survey that found Kentucky voters want real reforms that will lead to the reduction of healthcare costs and will improve the medical liability lawsuit system. Conducted by Verne Kennedy, PhD, President of MRI Research, the survey found the following about Kentucky voters:

*76% believe litigation drives up health care cost;

*75% favor limits on medical lawsuits;

*78% favor limits on non-economic damages;

*58% believe the medical liability system is broken;

*83% believe pregnant women, rural areas and seniors will be
hurt the most by excessive medical lawsuits;

*59% believe the medical liability insurance crisis will result
in the closure of ERs or hospitals all together.

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