Commentary by James Tayoun, D.O.: Governor’s Prescription For Pa. Misdiagnoses The Real Problem
By: James Tayoun, D.O., is the founding member of the Politically Active Physicians Association., Special To The Bulletin
While unveiling his health care plan, Governor Ed Rendell indicated “Pennsylvanians use emergency rooms far too much, often because they don’t have access to doctors.” Although the governor admits Pennsylvanians have lost access to adequate physician care, his plan fails to provide an effective remedy that will lower health care costs because it avoids the real issue: Pennsylvania needs medical liability tort reform.
Pennsylvania lost thousand of doctors because many can no longer afford to practice here, which is why patients are often forced to use emergency rooms for care. Medical liability premiums cost individual doctors between tens of thousands dollars per year to well over $300,000 annually. The reason behind these costs is the amount of frivolous lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania and outrageous jury awards in medical liability cases.
During Gov. Rendell’s first term in office:
* Approximately 3,000 physicians were forced to leave Pennsylvania, curtail services, or take early retirements.
* At least eleven deaths occurred in suburban Philadelphia due to a lack of neurosurgeons. This may be the tip of the iceberg as the Politically Active Physicians Association is investigating reports of a number of other deaths.
* Northeast Philadelphia lost its last maternity unit, leaving mothers with obstetrical emergencies in grave danger.
* Pennsylvania’s medical student retention rate plummeted to 4 percent.
A clear solution that has worked in other states that experienced similar crises is to place a sensible cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases. Doing so, will allow plaintiffs fair compensation for damages, yet provide a strong disincentive for trial lawyers to file frivolous lawsuits as they are paid on contingency.
The Politically Active Physicians Association has time and again asked Gov. Rendell to support placing caps on non-economic damages. Instead, the governor has offered ridiculous solutions such as expanding the roles of our already overburdened nurse practitioners to fill the gap of Pennsylvania’s physician shortages.
Gov. Rendell has supported tort reforms for the equine industry, moved to protect domestic pets, and acted as the key driver in bringing casinos to Pennsylvania. Yet, he consistently resists taking effective and meaningful actions that will provide Pennsylvanians with access to adequate heath care delivery services. It is time the governor put aside special interests of the trial bar and act in the interests of the children and families of Pennsylvania. The governor must lead the legislature to enact medical liability tort reform through placing sensible caps on non-economic jury awards and caps on attorney contingency fees. His failure to do so will result in more unnecessary deaths throughout the commonwealth.
James Tayoun, D.O., is the founding member of the Politically Active Physicians Association.
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