Effects of Medical-Malpractice Insurance Crisis Spreading
January 6, 2003
Soaring medical-malpractice insurance rates are causing clinics in some places to close, doctors to walk away from their practices, and hospitals to shutter their trauma centers, maternity wards, and other facilities.
- Twenty percent of hospitals have had to curtail services in some way -- and 6 percent have completely closed or discontinued some services, according to the American Hospital Association.
- Obstetricians and gynecologists in Miami are having to pay malpractice insurance premiums of $210,576 a year -- while those in Cleveland are being billed $152,496, with $141,760 the going rate in Las Vegas.
- Hospitals warn that 27 percent of doctors are leaving or retiring -- and one-quarter of hospitals say they are having difficulty attracting new doctors.
"We consider it a crisis when a woman can't find a physician to deliver her baby. We consider it a crisis when a... trauma center shuts down, and someone who has been seriously injured in an automobile accident must be transferred to another hospital," says Donald J. Palmisano, president-elect of the American Medical Association. "We think there's a meltdown occurring right now," he adds.
Doctors blame multimillion dollar jury awards and say the answer is limiting the amounts juries can give plaintiffs.
Source: Rob Stein, "Increase in Physicians' Insurance Hurts Care," Washington Post, January 5, 2003.
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