U.S. report wrong in connecting tort reform to insurance premiums

LETTER — Posted March 15, 2004

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Regarding "Tort reform wouldn't dent health spending -- CBO report" (Article, Feb. 23): The Congressional Budget Office report just blows smoke and fails to address the real problem. Many physicians are dropping out of practice as a result of absurdly high professional liability premiums.

I should know, because I am one of those physicians. I am a university professor of surgery. In addition, I maintained a private practice.

I would take on all cases no matter how difficult the challenge. I can no longer afford to practice because my professional liability rates are too high.

The same thing is happening to many of my colleagues. Soon there will not be enough surgeons to cover all of the surgical problems in my community.

Does this have any effect on health insurance premiums? Probably not. Does this have any effect on patient care in my community? Yes.

Health insurance premiums have nothing to do with liability premiums. Wake up before it's too late.

The answer is to eliminate professional liability insurance in favor of catastrophic coverage, as most malpractice cases are not caused by malpractice but are merely results that are less than ideal. Catastrophic coverage will cover the patient when a catastrophe occurs, malpractice or not.

The money spent creating this report would have been much better spent if it was put directly into caring for patients.

Elliott Brender, MD, Villa Park, Calif.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/03/15/edlt0315.htm.

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