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Maryland Doctors Cry "Wolf" Again!

Once again Maryland doctors are raising the specter that patients will be denied access to medical care because doctors will be leaving Maryland as the cost of medical liability insurance increases.  The last time they used this scare tactic they convinced the Assembly to subsidize their premiums.  Now as those subsidies are set to expire they’re back with the same tired threats. Citing an emerging doctor shortage, doctors are urging Assembly members to enact “tort reforms” designed to slam the court house door on injured patients.

First, claims of an emerging doctor shortage are not borne out by the facts.  A recent report to The Governor’s Task Force on Health Care Access and Reimbursement indicated that data collected from the American Medical Association and the American Osteopathic Association and adjusted on a consistent basis shows that Maryland has the 4th highest patient care physician to population ratio in the U.S.

Second, recent empirical evidence published by leading academic authors from Harvard’s School of Public Health and George Mason University debunks the conventional wisdom long promoted by the medical community that increases in liability insurance premiums cause physicians to relocate or discontinue their practices in high-cost states.

Investigating the effects of insurance premiums and various tort reforms on the number of obstetrician-gynecologists from all fifty states and the District of Columbia between 1992 and 2002 they found that the supply of OB/GYNs had no significant association with premiums or tort reforms.  Their results indicated that most OB/GYNs do not respond to liability risk by relocating out of state or discontinuing their practice, and that tort reforms such as caps on non-economic damages do not help states attract and retain high-risk specialists.

Unfortunately for the doctors this kind of fear mongering should no longer be effective with the Maryland Assembly.

Numerous Public Citizen Reports have shown that the real medical malpractice problem is medical malpractice.  Little progress has been made since the IOM reported in 1999 that nearly 100,000 deaths occur annually as a result of medical error.  It is not pretty to say, but doctors and nurses make preventable mistakes that kill more people in the U. S. every year than workplace and automobile accidents combined.  Medical errors cause needless pain and suffering for thousands of innocent patients and their families.  Much of this harm is caused by a small handful doctors.  This means that a directed effort in policing negligence would go a long way toward both saving lives and reducing the cost of medical malpractice insurance.

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