Saturday, May 30, 2009

Healthcare Access Crisis in PA

With the League of Leftwing Lawyers in charge of the Federal government, there will be no relief there. ~Bob

Malpractice lawsuit costs still a huge issue for Pennsylvania

By Gerald O'Malley
May 02, 2009

Nearly 40 Pennsylvania hospitals, maternity units and other major medical facilities throughout Pennsylvania have closed in just more than a decade, most under Gov. Ed Rendell's watch.
Skyrocketing insurance premiums sparked by rampant medical malpractice lawsuit abuse has been the driving force behind the majority of these closures. Yet, Governor Rendell recently declared that Pennsylvania's malpractice lawsuit abuse crisis is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Rendell's announcement comes on the heels of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's annual Malpractice Filings Report, but the court's numbers tell only a part of the story.
The Court reports only the number of cases filed -- not the number of litigants within those cases.

Most cases of alleged medical malpractice include multiple defendants as personal injury lawyers typically sue everyone whose name appears anywhere on the patients' chart.

Another key point Mr. Rendell neglects to include in his analysis is that the Supreme Court's annual report does not describe out-of-court settlements, which constitute a large percentage of the annual malpractice payouts and are a major factor behind this state's astronomical medical liability insurance rates and overall health care costs.

The Court reports a statewide decrease of 41 percent in malpractice filings in 2008 -- but that is comparing the 2008 case filings against a "baseline" of cases filed in 2000-02. The meaningful statistics show 2008's numbers are only a 3 percent decrease from cases filed in 2007. The 3 percent number becomes irrelevant when the multiple litigants within each case are factored in.

Since May 2002, when Act 13 was passed requiring physicians to self report when sued for malpractice, more than half of the state's 25,000 doctors have been sued. The Pennsylvania Medical Board, an agency of state government, found that only a fraction of all malpractice cases merit any action which is an indication that rampant medical liability lawsuit abuse exists in Pennsylvania.

The trial lawyers, their powerful and influential lobby in Harrisburg, and supportive politicians have created and sustained a remarkably hostile environment for all Pennsylvania health care providers. Rather than support substantial reforms that would restore access to care for Pennsylvania's most vulnerable patients, Governor Rendell has once again jumped to the defense of personal injury lawyers who pump tremendous amounts of money into his campaigns.
The governor's misrepresentation of statistics demonstrates a callous disregard for the babies, mothers, seniors and other citizens that have lost access to health care services.

The predatory practice of filing frivolous lawsuits involving multiple health care providers continues in the state, and the crisis is far from over. Governors in other states have managed to deny aggressive trial attorneys and develop innovative and cooperative solutions to the same health care delivery problems that plague Pennsylvania.

It is time for Mr. Rendell to defend those who lost access to health care. The personal injury lawyers can fend for themselves.

GERALD F. O'MALLEY, D.O. is a Philadelphia-based emergency physician and a board member of Doctor's Advocate, a national agency headquartered in Montgomery County that fights frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits.

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