April 2004 Bulletin

DMLR launches national media campaign

By Mary Ann Porucznik

On Feb. 10, Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR) launched a national media campaign via press conferences in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. Among the featured speakers was Stuart L. Weinstein, MD—then second vice president (and currently first vice president) of the AAOS and chair of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Spending Oversight Committee.

“I am here,” he said, “representing a membership of almost 26,000 orthopaedic surgeons who are committed to providing the best health care…[But] across the country, surgical practices and emergency rooms are closing or reducing their hours available to patients due to the substantially increased rates in medical liability insurance premiums, compounded by the unavailability of insurers willing to provide coverage.”

The DMLR is a coalition of specialty physician organizations, which together represent more than 230,000 specialty physicians. In addition to the AAOS, the DMLR membership includes: Neurosurgeons to Preserve Health Care Access; American College of Emergency Physicians; Society of Thoracic Surgeons; American College of Surgeons Professional Association; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American College of Cardiology; American Academy of Dermatology Association; National Association of Spine Specialists and American Urological Association.

Protect Patients Now

This ad appeared in USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.
The DMLR's Protect Patients Now initiative seeks to educate and inform patients, physicians, business leaders and legislators about the destructive effects that this crisis is having on the nation's health care and the national economy. The initiative will highlight states that are facing serious health care and economic crises, including Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.

In crisis states with U.S. senatorial races, DMLR asks that candidates sign a pledge to protect patients by supporting medical liability reform, “seeking passage of federal legislation that would include an effective limit on noneconomic damages, also known as ‘pain and suffering.'” The pledge specifies that the cap will not limit economic compensation awarded for lost income, inability to work, long-term care or medical expenses.

Multi-faceted campaign
The campaign uses print and television advertising, Internet technology and individual efforts to make its point. Print ads have already appeared in USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. One ad cautions businesses, “Before you move in, look who's moving out.” It depicts a line of health care workers leaving Washington state, a move that not only creates “an escalating scarcity of access to health care,” but also poses “serious consequences that can be unhealthy for your workforce and your bottom line.”

A second ad notes: “The House passed it, the President supports it, patients need it and doctors must have it. So why are a few U.S. senators holding liability reform hostage?” Both ads call for senators and candidates campaigning for Senate seats to sign a pledge to support federal medical liability reform.

DMLR also is sponsoring 30-minute television newsmagazine programs that will air statewide in selected states. The programs feature physicians, patients, public officials and concerned citizens who tell the true story of the crisis. During the program, viewers are asked to call their senators and urge them to support federal medical liability reform legislation.

The DMLR Web site, www.ProtectPatientsNow.org, includes several interactive features for patients, physicians and the media. Scrolling headlines; a state-by-state analysis; an archive of facts, statistics and studies; an e-mail news alert service and opportunities to get directly involved can all be found on the site.

For more information , contact Kathryn Pontzer, Deputy Director of the AAOS Washington Office at pontzer@aaos.org, or call (202) 546-4430.

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