U.S. Rep. Michael C. Burgess, MD (R-Texas), has again filed legislation to improve patient access to physicians by ending unnecessary lawsuits by trial lawyers, just like a similar law has done in Texas since 2003.
"Physicians are forced to trim their budgets in order to cover their insurance costs, often resulting in laying off staff, limiting access to certain aspects of their practice, or closing their practice all together," said Dr. Burgess. "We need national, across-the-board change in the tort reform system, and my bill would do just that. Runaway lawsuits are unnecessary and costly, and reforming medical liability must be a part of the national health care debate."
His bill, House Resolution 896, the Medical Justice Act, regulates civil actions for an injury or death resulting from health care by, among other things, limiting the noneconomic damages that an individual could recover. Medical litigation and soaring liability insurance premiums contribute significantly to the rising cost of health care, Representative Burgess said. Physicians are forced to practice defensive medicine in fear of being second-guessed by trial lawyers, which results in millions of dollars in unnecessary tests, procedures, and imaging. Furthermore, seasoned medical professionals are retiring early because staying in practice is no longer financially feasible, further contributing to our nation's doctor shortage, he added.
"Texas has led the nation in medical justice reform and is now a model state for what successful tort reform looks like," Dr. Burgess said. "Unfortunately, only a few states have followed suit, leaving too many Americans trapped in a system that is harmful to patients and doctors."
Dr. Burgess says his bill mirrors the tort reforms Texas passed in 2003. The legislation led to lower liability insurance premiums, more physicians licensed in Texas, and improved access to care for patients.
"All Americans deserve to enjoy the benefits Texas has seen thanks to the eradication of our epidemic of health care lawsuit abuse," said Texas Medical Association President Susan R. Bailey, MD. "Since our law took effect, Texas has licensed 21,000 new physicians, including a record 3,621 in fiscal year 2008. This has been good medicine for the people of Texas, and Dr. Burgess' plan would apply this lifesaving treatment to the rest of the country."
Action, March 15, 2011