Call Me A Doctor

A while back I e-mailed our Senator Arlen Specter, a man who I have voted for since I was 18 about a problem that we in Delaware County and all across the State have. Doctors, who because of skyrocketing insurance premiums are either leaving Pennsylvania or choosing to limit their specific specialty and or just retire early. As one of the thousands of self-employed people across the state who barely afford health care for my family, this is a two pronged issue.

I was quite surprised today when I received this from Senator Specter.

Dear Mr. Ward:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the issue of medical liability insurance. I appreciate your keeping me informed of your recommendations and concerns regarding this important issue.

During the 108th Congress the United States Senate considered legislation that would place a cap on non economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

I support caps on non-economic damages so long as they do not apply to catastrophic injuries such as the paperwork mix-up leading to the double mastectomy of a woman or the recent death of a 17 year old woman from North Carolina, due to an erroneous blood test.

An appropriate standard for cases not covered could be analogous provisions in Pennsylvania law which limit actions against governmental entities or in the limited tort context which exclude death, serious impairment of bodily function, and permanent disfigurement or dismemberment.

On February 24, 2004, I voted in favor of the motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 2061, the Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care Act of 2004. On April 7, 2004, I voted in favor of the motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 2207, the Pregnancy and Trauma Care Access Protection Act of 2004. Moreover, on July 9, 2003, I voted in favor of the motion to proceed to the consideration of S.11, the Patient’s First Act of 2003. These votes however, failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to further floor debate. Congress will continue to pursue these measures.

Beyond the issue of caps, I believe there could be savings on the cost of medical malpractice insurance by eliminating frivolous cases by requiring plaintiffs to file with the Court a certification by a doctor in the field that it is an appropriate case to bring to court. This proposal, which is now part of state procedure, would be expanded federally, thus reducing claims and saving costs. Further savings could be accomplished through patient safety initiatives identified in the report of the Institute of Medicine.

I think it is worth noting that my service for 23 years on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services has been to provide access to the best possible medical care to all Americans. I have consistently voted to assist doctors on adequate reimbursement in Medicare cases. I have consistently voted to expand funding for the National Institutes of Health to find cures for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other ailments. I have voted to increase funding for graduate medical education and to provide the delivery of health care for people in financial need.

From my travels throughout the state, I understand the problems faced by medical professionals, as well as to people injured in the course of medical treatment; and I am working with my colleagues in the Senate to provide an appropriate legislative solution.

The concerns of my constituents are of great importance to me, and I rely on you and other Pennsylvanians to inform me of your views. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at . Thank you again for writing.

Arlen Specter

Now I do realize that it must be difficult for a Senator to choose between the Insurance lobbyists who I’m sure bombard him 24/7 and the Lawyer lobbyist doing the same. Arlen, (Or at least his staffers) at least replied to me. Until this issue is resolved guess who will continue to suffer the most? The citizens of Pennsylvania. Ask your Doctor the next time you visit Him/Her how much they have to pay for insurance and you’ll find that they too are paying way too much. Now I’m not defending any Doctor who is proven incompetent, say who gives a wrong diagnosis that results in say a healthy kidney being removed instead of the diseased one, or stuff like that. They should be held accountable. But let’s face it. More and more Physicians will continue to close shop for elsewhere unless something about this is done. Also, I would like to put forth the Insurance companies position that there has been an 11% increase over the last 6 years of Attorneys seeking multi-million dollar amounts for “frivolous lawsuits” as they put it. Again between the Doctors. Insurance Companies, and Law Firms, We the people lose out the most.

Anyway,Thank You Arlen for being on the ball.

2 thoughts on “Call Me A Doctor

  1. The big issue that I see left out of the equation is Doctors “Policing their own” in other words the lack of the medical profession to discipline incompitant physicians. I have a family member who was misdiagnosed a couple years ago and narrowly missed dying from breast cancer. The radioligist was grossly incompitant having misread mammograms over a several year period in which the cancer was present. Luckily my family member actually retained copies of their yearly mamogram and had them available for another physician to correctly asses the issues present. Once trial lawyers were given permission to advertise it began a roller coaster of nuisance tort lawsuits that clogged our courts for years and also drove up malpractice insurance premiums, but until the doctors start calling a spade a spade with incompitant physicians within their midst, your going to need the trial attorneys.

  2. A couple of points:There’s a lot of evidence that “skyrocketing” malpractice insurance premiums are not caused by (or not mainly caused by) any increase in malpractice litigation. I don’t have the info handy, but you shouldn’t just assume that A is caused by B. Second, frivolous lawsuits: Frivolous lawsuits, by definition, are the kind that a court will throw out–dismiss– early in the process. They’re not terribly expensive to defend. They therefore do not materially increase the costs to insurance providers and, therefore, should not have any significant effect on insurance premiums.

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