Captive Audience: MDs Fighting Back on Malpractice

Staff Reporter of the Sun

Fed up with the state’s medical malpractice insurance crisis, some New York City doctors are airing televised messages in their waiting rooms that warn patients of a looming physician shortage.

One 60-second spot describes a scarcity of radiologists in the Bronx who are willing to perform mammograms because liability costs are too high. The message aims to change the way patients think about malpractice, doctors said, adding that by airing the advertisements they aim to shore up legislative support, and to inform patients that higher insurance costs could mean they’ll have to pay higher fees.

“I don’t think it’s going to keep anyone from suing, but I think the public has to know where the health care dollars are going,” a Manhattan internist, Dr. Margaret Lewin, said. “My objective is to educate the patient as to what’s going on politically, so if they can join us in making some changes that would be terrific,” Dr. Lewin, who is president of the New York County Medical Society, said.

So far, more than 100 offices in Manhattan and in the Bronx have been outfitted with $4,000, 40-inch television sets that were donated to members of New York’s medical societies by a Long Island company, MedLink International. The company also sells products such as electronic health records.

In July, the New York State Insurance Department increased medical liability costs by 14%, the biggest annual rise since 1993. The move drew immediate outcry from physicians, who said the new premiums — among the highest in the nation — would drive them out of business.
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