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Commentary

Congress Drops the Ball on Medical Liability Reform
Bill Frist, The Seattle Times, 5-10-06

Senator Bill Frist, in this op–ed from the Seattle Times, discusses how medical malpractice litigation inhibits access to physicians in Washington State and across the country. At the moment, national medical malpractice reform is stalled in the U.S. Senate.

Washington state faces an ongoing medical–liability crisis and, unfortunately, a solution seems a long way away. In King County, the past two years have seen at least two facilities decide to stop delivering babies. Other doctors in the area have a difficult time making ends meet: One surgeon, Dr. Michael Schlitt, has seen his yearly liability premiums top $300,000.

And nearly every doctor in the state has felt the liability crisis' pinch. Between 2002 and 2004 alone, Washington hospitals saw their liability premiums rise almost 125 percent.

Small and mid–sized towns have received the hardest blows. Yakima, for example, has lost over 80 percent of the neurosurgeons practicing there, while Everett has seen more than a dozen obstetrics practices close down altogether. For many Washington residents, it has become harder and harder to get needed medical care. In less–populated parts of the state, many women have to drive more than an hour to visit an obstetrician or deliver a baby.

And, for the moment, Congress hasn't proven able to help. Because of obstructionist Democratic tactics, the Senate Monday blocked action on two bills that would have improved things. For the nation and its people, our current medical-liability system has enormous costs.



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