What Ails Florida Could Use a Dose of Tort Reform

By September 15, 2008Briefly Legal, Health Care

President and CEO John Engler is on a panel discussion this week at the “America’s Health Care at Risk: Finding a Cure conference in Orlando.

In anticipation of the forum, Dr. James R. Bean, president of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, has an op-ed in the Ocala Star-Banner with good Florida-specific examples,  “Health care reform goes beyond cost, coverage,” observing:

Liability-induced doctor shortages are becoming endemic across the country, and they will only get worse if we follow the present course. More and more maternity wards will close as obstetricians give up delivering babies. More and more doctors in specialties at high risk of litigation – such as neurosurgeons, cardiac surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons and trauma specialists — will retire early or stop performing life-saving but risky procedures.

Meanwhile, in the Jacksonville Times-Union, a letter about the state’s doctor shortage from Jay Millson, executive vice president, Duval County Medical Society, who comments, “Decreased payor reimbursements, increasing administrative hassles and failure to pass meaningful tort reform are encouraging physicians to leave Florida and go to states like Texas and California, which are overwhelmed with physician applications.”

Texas? Yep. From the El Paso Times:, “Doctors laud five years of malpractice relief.”

Almost 90 percent of the doctors responding to the survey said they felt more comfortable practicing medicine in Texas now than before medical liability laws changed in September 2003, the TMA reported.

“It definitely takes off a big weight. I can take care of patients without worrying that anything could lead to a lawsuit,” said Dr. Luis Linan, 48, an El Paso obstetrician-gynecologist who had three lawsuits filed against him in his 13-year-old practice. No lawsuits have been filed against him since the new laws took effect in 2003, he said.

The reduced liability exposure has allowed Linan to “take care of higher-risk patients rather than send them out” to a specialist as he was doing before the laws changed, he said. That allows patients to get more-complex care more quickly, he said.

Dan Pero has more comparing Florida to Texas’ legal climate for doctors at American Courthouse here.

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