October 2004 Bulletin

By Stuart L. Weinstein, MD

As we head into the November elections, the Academy membership can take great pride in our Medical Liability Reform Campaign efforts. The Medical Liability Reform Oversight Committee and the entire AAOS staff have put forth a total coordinated organizational effort in this campaign. The AAOS responded strongly to the membership’s need to address medical liability reform both on a federal and state level. Although the crisis continues to escalate, with Massachusetts being named the 20th crisis state, and with 25 other states on the verge of crisis, we have made great strides.

DMLR has impact

As mentioned in our summer update (Bulletin June 2004), achieving reform on the federal level will be a long and expensive campaign and it cannot be done alone. As you know, in June of 2003, the AAOS helped to establish Doctors for Medical Liability Reform (DMLR) in conjunction with the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. This national coalition of 11 medical specialty societies represents more than 230,000 physicians. DMLR is the largest coalition dealing significantly with medical liability reform.

As the fall elections approach, the DMLR campaign is evident in key senate races across the country. DMLR has successfully been able to keep the liability reform issue in the public eye in states with important senatorial races this election cycle. Our 30-minute news magazines, which inform patients about how high medical liability insurance premiums are affecting their access to care and urge them to call their senators and tell them to support federal medical liability reform legislation, have been running in the states of Washington, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. They will be running between now and the November elections. They have been broadcast nearly 2,000 times in a three-month period. A national newsmagazine that highlights the need for medical liability reform in several other states, including Illinois, Florida and Pennsylvania, is currently in post-production, and soon will be available to run in physician’s offices throughout the country.

We estimate that when you include the national print effort, the DMLR message has made an impression on approximately 20 million people. More than 60,000 citizens have visited our Web site, http://www.protectpatientsnow.org/, since it was launched. The news magazines have also generated 20,000 phone calls to the DMLR 800 number.

In monitoring the press in the states where DMLR is active, it is clear that we are having a major impact. DMLR has experienced a steady increase in earned media attention and has clearly become an organization of influence in our target states and nationally. The dialog between the candidates over the medical liability reform issue has been aggressive and has led to clear distinctions between the candidates on this issue. As we come down to the wire, DMLR is preparing for the final push for the November elections. At the Republican National Convention President Bush once again emphasized the need to solve the medical liability crisis to maintain access to care for the American people. Medical liability reform is an issue in almost every senatorial campaign this year.

State success

On the state level, we have achieved success in three out of the six states where grants were provided to the state orthopaedic societies. Important medical liability reform activities are underway in several other states in this fall’s election cycle, including votes in Oregon and Ohio. The AAOS will provide support to the Oregon Orthopaedic Society in their efforts to achieve medical liability reform in this November’s election. The Academy has also already invested funds in helping our members in Missouri and Pennsylvania fight the battle.

Rest assured that we will continue, over the next year, to support state orthopaedic society grant proposals in states that are at the “tipping point.” Once the November election results are in and we’ve had a chance to assess the effectiveness of the Doctors for Medical Liability Reform Campaign, the Medical Liability Oversight Committee will meet to discuss the “next steps.”

I encourage you all to bring the message to your patients. Share your story about how increasing medical liability premiums are affecting your practice and ask them to share compelling stories with you about difficulties in obtaining access to specialty care. It’s important that your patients know how this crisis affects them and that it jeopardizes their access to care. When patients take the message to the U.S. senate candidates, victory will be won.

Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, is first vice president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. He also is chair of the AAOS Medical Liability Reform Oversight Committee and vice chair of Doctors for Medical Liability Reform. He can be reached at stuart-weinstein@uiow.edu.

Support AAOS Medical Liability Campaign

The support of AAOS members is crucial to the campaign’s success—it’s not too late to make a contribution to the campaign. Your check, either personal or corporate, should be made payable to: American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons and send to AAOS, Medical Liability Reform Campaign, 6300 N. River Road, Rosemont, Ill. 60018-9627. Credit card contributions are also welcome. Use the convenient postage-paid envelope included in this issue of the Bulletin to make your contribution.

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