Doctors Going South

Has the issue of health care really gone too far?  A critical element for enabling all of these reforms to provide real relief and to help all Americans get access to better and more affordable health care is curbing excessive litigation.  

Most of us are feeling the effects of the down spiraling economy.  We see it every where, in the news, on the internet.  More importantly, we feel it in our wallet.  Have you ever stop and wonder about how those who are in the professional field of health care such as doctors, dentists are feeling?  Many have had to leave their profession doing something else other than what they started out doing in the beginning.  

We now face another litigation crisis that has made insurance premiums unaffordable or even unavailable for many doctors, through no fault of their own.  This is making it more difficult for many Americans to find care and threatening access for many more.   Nevada is facing unprecedented problems in assuring quick access to urgently needed care.  The University of Nevada Medical Center closed its trauma center in Las Vegas for ten days last year.  Its surgeons had quit because they could no longer afford malpractice insurance.  Their premiums had increased sharply, some from $40,000 to $200,000.  The trauma center was able to re-open only because some of the surgeons agreed to become county government employees for a limited time, which capped their liability for non-economic damages if they were sued. 

Overall, more than 10% of all doctors in Las Vegas are expected to retire or relocate their practices by mid year.  There was a female doctor, age 41 who closed her decade-old obstetrics and gynecology practice in Las Vegas because her insurance premium jumped from $40,000 to $150,000 a year.   Other states are facing the same problem.  A doctor in a small town in North Carolina decided to take early retirement when his premiums went through the roof from $7,500 to $38,000 per year.  His partner, unable to afford the practice expenses by himself may now be forced to close the practice and work at a teaching hospital.  

Many physicians in Ohio saw their malpractice premiums triple in 2001, and some are leaving their practice as a result.  An Akron Urologist decided to retire.  Had this Urologist continued to practice, he would have spent seven months of his yearly income to cover the $85,000 premium. In New Jersey, 65% of the hospitals report that physicians are leaving because of increased premiums  (over 250% over the last three years). 

Litigation system does not accurately judge whether an error was committed in the course of medical care, physicians adjust their behavior to avoid being sued.  A recent survey of physicians revealed that one-third shied away from going into a particular specialty because they feared it would subject them to greater liability exposure.

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