AMA, Oregonians Come Together for Liability Reform

The American Medical Association (AMA) National House Call joined Oregonians for Quality, Affordable and Reliable Health Care on Oct. 13 at a rally in Portland, urging the public to vote “Yes” on Ballot Measure 35, which would protect Oregon patients’ access to quality health care.

AMA Past President Thomas Reardon, joined emergency physician and Oregon Medical Association President John Moorhead, and other Oregon physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to speak out in support of the measure. Ballot Measure 35 would re-establish a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability cases, and stabilize out-of-control medical liability insurance premiums.

In the past four years, 22 percent of obstetricians have stopped delivering babies, and fully one third of the remaining obstetricians say they plan to quit delivering babies in the next five years, according to a survey by the Oregon Health and Science University. The cap would reportedly turn the tide.

Originally established in 1987, the cap stabilized, then helped reduce medical liability insurance premiums by reportedly as much as 50 percent, until the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 1999 that the Legislature did not have the constitutional authority to enact the cap. Since the cap was lifted, premiums have reportedly risen as much as 400 percent for physicians in many specialties.

The AMA has mobilized its Patient Action Network in Oregon to encourage the public to research candidates’ records and vote in the Nov. 2 election. And in August, the AMA National House Call and AMA President John Nelson, traveled around Oregon to voice the AMA’s support for the measure to nearly 150 Oregon physicians and numerous journalists.

“Oregon is one of 20 states whose health care system is ‘in crisis’ as a direct result of doctors being forced to stop providing essential medical services because of skyrocketing medical liability costs,” said Nelson during the August AMA National House Call. “This crisis must be stopped. Oregon voters have a unique opportunity to stand up and say, ‘we want to protect the future of health care in our state.’ A ‘Yes’ vote on measure 35 will help protect that future.”