Reform efforts are making a difference
Campaign extended to South Carolina, Georgia; effect on Senate races
By Stuart L. Weinstein, MD
Congress may be in recess, but the “Protect Patients Now” campaign launched by Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR) isn’t resting. Media efforts to inform patients about how high medical liability insurance premiums are affecting their access to care seem to be having an effect on important races for the House and Senate.
Phase 2 of the campaign began in early July, with the introduction of 30-minute newsmagazine television programs that feature real stories from patients and physicians, in South Carolina and Georgia. They tell the true story of the crisis in their states. During each program, viewers are asked to call their senators and urge them to support federal medical liability reform legislation.
DMLR is also asking U.S. Senators or candidates for the U.S. Senate in crisis states to sign a “Pledge to Protect Patients Now.” The document is a pledge to support medical liability reform.
The launch generated coverage by both local and national publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Charleston Post & Courier, National Journal, and Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Radio and television also covered the campaign, which is focused on informing consumers about the need for noneconomic damage caps.
In South Carolina, for example, obstetricians today are paying nearly five times what they paid for medical liability insurance in 1999. The South Carolina Senate race is significant because it is one of the few that are “up for grabs.” Democrat Fritz Holling is retiring, and the Republican contender, Jim DeMint, currently a U.S. Representative, has signed the DMLR pledge to protect patients by supporting medical liability reform and voting in favor of a national cap. In the House, DeMint was a co-sponsor of a bill that passed to provide meaningful medical liability reform, but the measure was repeatedly blocked in the Senate.
Recently Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) joined DeMint at a campaign stop at a Columbia hospital. “We need Jim DeMint in the Senate,” said Frist.
In Georgia, U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, who is campaigning for a Senate seat, has also signed the DMLR pledge.
The campaign is also going strong in North Carolina and Washington, the two states in which it was first launched during February.
The 30-minute newsmagazines will be running between now and the November election. As election day draws closer, DMLR may run additional infomercials in other states with competitive Senate races, depending on funds available.
The American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons is a founding member of the DMLR, which is a coalition of 11 medical organizations representing more than 230,000 specialty physicians. Together these groups are contributing more than $7 million to fund the “Protect Patients Now!” campaign.
Even if the campaign is not evident in your state or region, the national strategy is sound and your support is critical. AAOS leadership and the members of the other specialty physician organizations that make up the DMLR are committed to continuing the fight for as long as it takes.
AAOS member support is vital to the success of this campaign. A shift in the composition of the Senate could result in passage of meaningful medical liability reform, with a national cap on noneconomic damages. I urge you to do your part.
Talk to your patients and your colleagues. Provide them with information and refer them to the DMLR Web site at: (http://www.protectpatientsnow.org/) for up-to-date information on reform efforts across the country. Work with your state society to achieve reform in your state. Give generously to this effort…for your patients and the future of your practice.
If you have not already done so, it’s not too late to make a contribution. Any amount is welcome; many members have donated the suggested $1,000. Your checks, either personal or corporate, should be made payable to: American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and sent to AAOS, Medical Liability Reform Campaign, 6300 N. River Road, Rosemont, IL 60018-9627.
Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, AAOS first vice president, is chair of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Oversight Committee and vice chair of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform. He can be reached at email@example.com