December 2003 Bulletin

The AAOS Medical Liability Reform Campaign

Can we really win this battle?

By Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

As we try to raise money for our campaign to get federal and state medical liability reform, the question is always asked: ”What are you doing with the money, and can we really win this battle?”

The answer to the second part of this question, “Can we win this battle?” is definitely ”Yes!” The environment for success has never been better. We have a president who supports medical liability reform, a Senate majority leader who supports it and is planning a series of votes in the Senate to keep the issue in front of the public throughout this election cycle, a House of Representatives that has already passed (once again) a bill in support of medical liability reform (HR-5), clear evidence that legislation modeled after the California MICRA legislation does work and public opinion favoring liability reform. Thus our window of opportunity will be the upcoming election cycle.

Three-pronged approach
“How is the money being spent?” can be answered as follows:
The $1 million AAOS commitment and the money obtained from the fund-raising campaign are being used in a three-pronged approach. First, at the federal level, the AAOS is playing a leadership role in the new coalition Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR). This coalition brings together the AAOS along with the American College of Surgeons, American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons, American College of Emergency Room Physicians, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, American College of Cardiology, North American Spine Society, American Academy of Dermatology and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists under the DMLR umbrella.

The DMLR has hired a public relations firm to develop a hard-hitting, focused media campaign targeting key senatorial races. This public and media campaign is being prepared now and will be unveiled in target races shortly. This 12-to-15 month campaign leading up to the 2004 elections promises to be a tough battle.

The second aspect of the medical liability reform campaign is aimed at helping state orthopaedic societies organize and fight the battle for meaningful and constitutionally sustainable medical liability reform at the state level. We have thus far given grants to state orthopaedic societies in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Mississippi and New Jersey to help them fight the battle locally. As you may know, two of these state orthopaedic associations have already helped achieve success in their states. (See related article on page 23.) We continue to work with the other state societies in crisis states and will be supporting their efforts financially.

Lastly, we are now unveiling our “grassroots” campaign for AAOS members and their patients to become involved in obtaining medical liability reform. This campaign will be unveiled in two of the crisis states shortly and available to all AAOS members within the next month. (See the article on page 19.)
Fund raising campaign

We are somewhat disappointed in the response to the fund raising campaign. One hundred percent of the AAOS board contributed to the campaign, with more than 25 percent of all AAOS leaders (council and committee members, specialty society presidents, state society presidents, etc.). At the member level, only about 5 percent have contributed to the campaign.
While not all states are in crisis, an additional 25 are on the verge of crisis. Moreover, those states that are not in crisis may see an influx of physicians from crisis states, creating more competition for patients. So, this crisis affects all of us, in one form or another. It must be addressed by all of us. The AAOS and the other medical associations cannot do it alone and they do not have any chance for success without your financial support.

There has never been a better opportunity to achieve medical liability reform. But the opportunity will not last forever. We, the leadership of the AAOS, implore you to please give generously to this effort. Do it for your patients and do it for the future of your practice.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD is second vice president of the AAOS and chair of the Medical Liability Reform Campaign Oversight Committee. He can be reached at: stuart-weinstein@uiowa.edu.


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