New Analysis Rejects "Medical Liability = Fleeing Docs" Myth

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New Analysis Rejects "Medical Liability = Fleeing Docs" Myth 

For Immediate Release: February 5, 2009

Contact: Ray De Lorenzi
202.965.3500 ext. 8369


Number of physicians rises nationwide; states w/caps have fewer docs

Washington, DC – Insurance companies and tort reform groups have sidetracked countless health care debates via the “medical liability” red herring.  But an analysis of new American Medical Association data rejects the myth that tort reform attracts more doctors, adding to a growing body of research that proves physicians are not fleeing the profession because of medical liability.

The AMA statistics show the number of doctors continues to rise nationwide and in every state.  There are now twice as many doctors per capita than when the AMA began tracking physician numbers in the 1960s.

“This data proves that doctors can practice medicine while patients are protected by a strong civil justice system,” said American Association for Justice President Les Weisbrod.  “Tort reform does nothing to keep patients safe or provide health care for millions of uninsured Americans.”

The number of doctors has risen over the last five years in all states.   Only Alaska, Georgia, Montana and Utah – all with medical malpractice caps – did not outpace population growth.

The analysis also found the number of physicians per capita (100,000 population) was 13 percent higher in states without caps.  This finding echoes research from the Commonwealth Fund and the American College of Emergency Physicians, which found health care quality and patient safety are far worse in states that have eliminated accountability through tort reform measures.

Additionally, specialties saw significant increases in the number of doctors.  Neurosurgeons, OB/GYNS and emergency room doctors all increased over the last five years nationally.

AAJ will also release next week a review of medical malpractice data and research that illustrates how improving patient safety, not limiting people’s access to the legal system, should be the focus of upcoming health care reform.

To view the nationwide doctor data, click here.

Past quotes from the AMA:

  • “Our medical liability system is broken.  Skyrocketing medical liability premiums - $200,000 year or more in some high-risk specialties – are forcing physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to a state with reforms where premiums are more stable.  The crisis is threatening access to care for patients.”  -William G. Plested III, President-elect, AMA, 9/2005.
  • “Because of the sky-high cost of liability insurance, physicians throughout the country have been forced to limit their practices, stop delivering babies and some are even leaving the practice of medicine completely.”  -Yank Coble, President, AMA, 2/2003.
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