February 2011 Archives

February 24, 2011

Tort Reform And The Imagined Health Care Crisis



This blog entry comes courtesy of the President of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and was published in the February 24, 2011 edition of the Belleville News Democrat:

It is once again time to set the record straight with your editorial board. There was never a health care crisis in this state and there were no "jackpot justice conditions" that caused doctors to flee Illinois.

Your editorial board and the president of the Illinois State Medical Society (ISMS) have chosen to ignore important facts when it comes to medical care access in this state. Over the years, we have consistently increased the number of physicians in our state. That's right. The American Medical Association data reflects increases for each of the last 45 years. Clearly not a climate of doctors leaving Illinois or retiring early.

Funny how it used to be, for years, ISMS would falsely claim doctors were fleeing our state and that we already had a shortage of doctors because of fabricated "jackpot justice conditions." As the data has failed to support that claim, the dialogue now shifts to an attempt to create a "future crisis". In fact, a recent survey - funded in part by ISMS - clearly demonstrated oversaturation of physicians in the largest populated area of our state. That's correct - more than enough doctors in the greater Chicagoland area.

Dr. Steven Malkin, the president of ISMS, recently tried to tie a potential doctor shortage in Hillsboro, Illinois to lawsuits. He suggested lawsuits were preventing doctors from setting up practice in the Hillsboro area. What are the facts? In 2010 there was only 1 case of physician negligence filed in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, and that's about the number each year over the last nine years according to the Court Clerk's office. Hardly, a "toxic" malpractice lawsuit environment. Additionally, the number of medical negligence cases filed in Illinois, overall, has steadily declined over the last seven years. Filings are down almost 40% since 2003.

We do agree that a portion of the 2005 law, which was struck down last year, needs to be reinstated. The insurance reforms contained in the law forced malpractice insurance companies to provide greater transparency on rate-setting and payouts, that spurred competition and motivated more companies to enter the marketplace. These measures resulted in a reduction of malpractice premiums for doctors.

Health care in Illinois doesn't improve by taking away the constitutional rights of those injured by medical negligence. It improves by providing better care, and holding those who are careless and their insurance companies accountable. True reform of the insurance industry and a reduction in medical errors is the only way to ensure a thriving healthcare system that works for every citizen of this state.