AMA supports new bi-partisan bill to reform the medical liability system

The American Medical Association (AMA) sent a letter of support for legislation introduced today, H.R. 5, known as the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011. The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Representatives Phil Gingrey, M.D. (R-GA), David Scott (D-GA), and Lamar Smith (R-TX) includes reforms intended to repair the broken medical liability system, reduce the growth of health care costs, and preserve patients’ access to medical care.

“The AMA applauds the sponsors of this legislation for addressing our nation’s broken medical liability system,” said Ardis Dee Hoven, M.D., chair of the American Medical Association. “The AMA strongly supports the reforms proposed in the HEALTH Act, which are similar to those already working in California and Texas. While the total medical liability premiums in the rest of the U.S. rose 945 percent between 1976 and 2009, the increase in California premiums was less than one third of that amount at just 261 percent. Every dollar that goes toward medical liability costs is a dollar that does not go to patients who need care.”

Last week, Dr. Hoven told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that the nation’s medical liability system is increasingly irrational and needs reform. “Nearly 61 percent of physicians age 55 and older have been sued,” Dr. Hoven told the committee during the hearing entitled “Medical Liability Reform: Cutting Costs, Spurring Investment, Creating Jobs”.

During her testimony, Dr. Hoven shared results from a recent AMA report that show the system has become costly and unfair for patients and physicians, with an average of 95 medical liability claims filed for every 100 physicians. Dr. Hoven noted that a majority of claims filed against physicians lack merit, as 64 percent of liability claims that closed in 2009 were dropped or dismissed. These claims still come at a significant cost, as physicians and health care providers may take extra precautionary measures to avoid being sued, a practice known as defensive medicine. A 2003 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report estimated the cost of defensive medicine to be between $70-$126 billion per year.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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