Is the medical malpractice crisis over? “Pennsylvania Medical Society spokesman Chuck Moran said yesterday that it’s premature to declare the crisis over. He said the overall payouts in medical malpractice cases in Pennsylvania rose in 2004, and medical malpractice insurance premiums haven’t gone down.”

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  • dr john in pennsylvania

    Ugh.
    PA Citizens for Fairness is an “astro-turf” organization, i.e. a fake grass-roots organization; loyas protecting their gold mine.
    That said, it’s the PA Med Society that killed lawsuit reform in Pennsylvania. In last year’s Senate primary, Pat Toomey wanted to make malpractice reform the cornerstone of his campaign against Arlen Specter, who is an ardent defender of the lawsuit industry. Specter played hardball and demanded an early endorsement from the PMS. Thinking he’d win easily, they endorsed Specter rather than remaining neutral. The result of the Specter endorsement was that malpractice reform was not an issue in that campaign, and PA politicians learned the futility of taking up the cause of PA’s doctors.

  • Anonymous

    Just how “astro-turf” is the Pennsylvania Citizens for Fairness? By visiting the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Business Search Web tool (http://www.corporations.state.pa.us/corp/soskb/Corp.asp?2029284), one finds out that this so-called consumer group is owned by the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.

    That said, and although I HATE to disagree with a fellow crusader, Arlen Specter isn’t the reason we haven’t achieved medical liablity reform at the national level – when I last looked, Specter had twice voted FOR cloture, to bring a caps bill to the floor – just as Toomey (whom I consider a good friend and who seems far less PO’d at the PA Medical Society for its endorsement of Specter than many of his supporters still seem to be…in fact, Pat understood very well that multiple factors came into play in the PAC’s decision…)would have done.

    Personally, I would much rather have seen Pat Toomey in that seat -but I understand the reasons behind the PMS choice and I think it’s less than constructive for various physician advocacy factions to take shots at each other and apportion blame for things that no one controlled when what we really need is solidarity. In fact, that’s what the physician community has ALWAYS needed – the same kind of solidarity that the lawyers have.

    And just to clarify, malpractice reform at the national level WAS an issue in the Specter/Hoeffel campaign….

    And, if you want to get technical, liablity reform here in Pennsylvania has nothing to do with Arlen Specter’s support or lack of support. What killed liability reform (and by that I assume Dr. John means the caps bill, since most other liability reform measures that physicians have supported passed in Pennsylvania)were two Republican members of the PA General Assembly – Senate Judiciary Chair Stuart Greenleaf and House Judiciary Chair Dennis O’Brien – both with strong ties to the trial lawyers in the state. We might all remember that they wouldn’t let the caps bills that a majority of members of BOTH Pa Houses supported out of their committees, effectively killing the legislation, when we cast ballots for PA Senators and House members this year…..

    Please recall that the PA Medical Society isn’t some academic institution that makes unilateral policy or political decisions – there are county delegates to the medical society from all over the state, Board members from throughout PA, and PAC board members, all of whom are Pennsylvania physicians, who represent PA’s doctors and vote to make political endorsements and provide campaign contributions to candidates who support health care. As an organization, it is representative of its MEMBERS, and I’ve seen several people who didn’t like that the organization was doing get involved and change those things….

    DBR

  • Anonymous

    “one finds out that this so-called consumer group is owned by the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association.”

    Kind of like “Crack Addicts for the Legalization of Crack”.

  • dr john

    DBR:
    You make it seem as if there’s massive support for the PMS among Pennsylvania’s doctors, but as you no doubt know, most of us don’t belong. The PMS advocacy for primary care concerns — the focus of this blog — is especially lame, and PMS membership among family doctors approaches zero.
    Moreover, PMS’ years of maladroit lobbying for malpractice reform prompted the formation of PAPA, which moved our cause forward. The PMS was trailing behind.
    Your citation of Specter’s meaningless procedural vote on debate cloture as proof that Specter supports malpractice reform apes Specter himself last year: he told loya groups he “opposed” malpractice reform just as he told doctors he “voted for” malpractice reform.
    PMS’ cynical endorsement of Specter over Toomey was a blunder of such magnitude that there’s no recovery for the PMS in sight.
    Suits me.

  • DBR

    Dr. John noted: “PMS membership among family doctors approaches zero.”

    First, we’re on the same side – I THINK I know who you are, and if you’re not sure about me, I’m Donna Rovito, whose Liability Updates were posted on the PAPA website for several years…I work with ALL patient and physician advocacy organizations and sincerely believe that there is an important niche for each and every one….

    I also sincerely believe that it’s vitally important that all the physician advocacy organizations stop taking pot shots at each other and casting blame for both real and presumed failures from the past….you won’t find various factions within the trial lawyers’ associations blaming each other for anything – they march in very effective lock-step. Clearly, since getting fiercely independent physicians to agree on anything is like herding cats, this is more of a challenge for folks in the medical profession – but no less important…

    I frankly don’t know the percentage of family practice physicians who are members of PMS (although I suppose I could find out….), but I DO know that its recently deceased president, Dr. Lila Kroser (whom we ALL deeply mourn) was a respected family practice doctor who served in national leadership of your specialty society. And the prior year, Montgomery County family practitioner Bill Lander served as President of PMS, so I honestly don’t believe there is any lack of participation on the PMS board by family practitioners.

    I think it’s important that EVERY physician, in every specialty, participate in as many organizations which represent the interests of physicians as possible. Most of the really strong advocates for liability reform in Pennsylvania claim membership in multiple organizations – some serve on the PMS board, the 3PSC board, the POS Board AND as PAPA hospital captains, and their effectiveness as such is quadrupled…

    But I think that ALL the organizations need to show professional respect for each other’s efforts and not divide the medical community by “choosing sides.” Political disagreements may occur in the future as they have in the past, but since the legislators themselves see them as part of the cost of “doing business,” I think the medical community needs to get over the differences and move on.

    I VOTED for Pat Toomey and spent 13 hours passing out campaign literature for him on Primary Day (I also volunteered in his very first congressional campaign, so I don’t need to be told that he would – and WILL in the future – be a strong champion of medicine.) But frankly, it wasn’t an endorsement or LACK of endorsement from PMS that edged Specter in that election – it was the support of the entire Republican leadership, up to and including the President, for whom I ALSO campaigned, having determined that his positions on medical liablity reform were FAR preferable to the senator from Massachusetts and the malpractice lawyer…in plain words, I acknowledged that I disagreed with the President on the Toomey/Specter issue, accepted the political reasons he supported the multi-term incumbent, and campaigned for him anyway, because it was in the best interest of medicine. Just for the record, the Republican leadership weighed in on the PMS endorsement of Specter as well….the very same Republican leadership which was spearheading the medical liablity reform measures we supported. And in ALL fairness, in virtually ALL other health care issues other than liability reform, Sen. Specter has for most of his career been a “friend” to medicine….just ask the CDC or the NIH or the many hospitals for whom he obtained funding….(yes, I HATE admitting that, but it’s the truth….)

    Holding a political grudge against a person or an organization to the detriment of our cause or the family of medicine is short-sighted and self-defeating, and we can’t afford either indulgence…I’m listing to a local radio station right now and am reminded of our conservative talk show host’s opinions on the Toomey/Specter issue – i.e., HE’S angry with Sen. Rick Santorum for NOT supporting Pat Toomey, and has blasted our junior senator for it repeatedly since Specter’s narrow win last year. In doing so, I’m sure he FEELS better, but what he’s REALLY doing is helping to hand a tough election to Santorum’s opponent, Bob Casey, Jr. – whom I know to personally believe that DOCTORS’ ERRORS are to blame for the malpractice crisis and who opposes ANY form of liability reforms….(I learned that when I was secretary of the PMS PAC board and we were personally interviewing all the candidates in the 2002 PA Governor’s race primary….)

    Of course, we’re all entitled to our personal opinions about how various organizations have handled their responsibilities in the past, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, air them privately and not in public forums where differences of opinion can divide the efforts of the WHOLE medical community to effect change….there simply aren’t enough of us making noise to speak in discordant voices…

    That said, if you are who I think you are, nice job on the letter in the Philly papers…

    DBR

  • dr john

    DBR:
    Wrong guy.
    Toomey in ’10.

  • DBR

    Dr. John said:

    “Toomey in ’10.”

    Or sooner, if the senior senator from PA doesn’t get good medical care….

  • Anonymous

    Senators ALWAYS get good medical care. It is the rest of us that is the issue.

  • Anonymous

    “And in ALL fairness, in virtually ALL other health care issues other than liability reform, Sen. Specter has for most of his career been a “friend” to medicine”

    So I take it you’re disappointed he wasn’t a “friend” to the insurance industry on that issue? Of which physicians have become a wholly owned subsidiary?

    You’re mad because he decided to become a “friend” to the patients injured by malpractice?

  • Anonymous

    It turns my stomach that a debate even exists over this issue. We all know that PA doctors are getting killed in the med-mal arena, mostly due to the prevalence of frivolous cases. We all know that PA doctors are going elsewhere, practicing defensive medicine, etc. Yet the papers still run articles suggesting that the crisis is fading because the number of lawsuits is leveling off. Oh, those lawyers are clever – they just bring one case against 10 docs! But while PATLA is undoubtedly ruthless, perhaps we should learn from their persistence. I personally plan on contacting the folks at Doctor’s Advocate. Bob Surrick has been a strong voice on behalf of the doctors, and he is well-known throughout the state. They know the crisis isn’t fading, and we know the crisis isn’t fading. We should do less complaining about how awful and predatory big, bad PATLA and be more proactive in figuring out a way to stop the madness. After all, no one is going to do it for us.