Wash. Physicians Meet with Legislators to Discuss Malpractice Crisis

January 29, 2004

Steve Woods, MD, Overlake Hospital OBGYN and partner in a private medical practice, along with several of his Overlake Hospital and Evergreen Hospital colleagues, met in Olympia, Wash., recently to talk to King County Legislators about Washington’s medical malpractice crisis and the need for tort reform.

“Malpractice insurance rates for physicians are going up drastically in this state and unless something is done about the tort system, more doctors will have to close, move their practice to another state or drop their specialty,” Woods said. “Unlike a normal business, we can’t increase fees to cover the $60,000 to $80,000 per year malpractice insurance costs because our reimbursement rates are fixed and are not negotiable.”

According to the Washington State Medical Association, out of control jury awards and settlements are overloading the system and raising physician’s insurance premiums to impossible levels. Consequently, doctors in this state are facing some tough choices: limit services, move out of state or close completely. And that leaves a community facing the prospect of no doctors.

“Rising malpractice insurance premiums makes out of state recruitment almost impossible and will soon force many higher risk specialists to cease performing deliveries, surgeries and other vital procedures,” says Robert Wohlman, MD, Gastroenterologist with Overlake Hospital.

Woods and his colleagues met with the following King County Legislators:

* District 5 — Senator Cheryl Pflug (R), Representative Glenn Anderson (R), Representative Jay Rodne (R)
* District 45 — Senator Bill Finkbeiner (R), Representative Toby Nixon (R), Representative Laura Ruderman (D)
* District 48 — Senator Luke Esser (R), Representative Ross Hunter (D), Representative Rodney Tom (R)

For more information on the Tort Reform, go to www.wsma.org.

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