October 2002 MedBytes: Medical Liability Reform

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Professional liability reform is a hot topic these days, so, of course, the World Wide Web is a target-rich environment for hits on the subject. Here are a few of the more useful sites you'll find as you surf the Internet.

Texas Medical Association
Because patients' access to care is threatened, medical liability reform will be TMA's top priority when the Texas Legislature convenes in January. TMA's Patient Access and Professional Liability Reform Project   explains why TMA is concerned about rising premiums and frivolous lawsuits, and outlines the association's strategic plan to stem the crisis. It also details the creation of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access (TAPA), a coalition of physicians, hospitals, medical clinics, insurers, and business and consumer groups, of which TMA is a member.

Texas Alliance for Patient Access
TAPA has its own Web site at www.tapa.info . There you'll find a discussion of the problem, research into the issue, the solution to the crisis, and what you can do to make that solution happen. Included in the site are suggestions for talking to your patients, your colleagues, and the news media; sample letters to elected officials and the editor of your local newspaper; a list of talking points; and links to state and federal officials and to various tort reform groups, including Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.     

Californians Allied for Patient Protection
The Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), the legislation that is a model for liability reform efforts in Texas and other states, originated in California. Californians Allied for Patient Protection, a coalition of physicians, other health professionals, insurers, and tort reformers that supports MICRA and defends it against modification, maintains a Web site at www.micra.org . Although aimed at a California audience, the site has comprehensive information about MICRA, a list called "Quick Facts" that explains why MICRA is the solution to the liability crisis, a list of various publications, and links to the American Tort Reform Association and Health Care Liability Alliance.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
On July 24, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a lengthy report with a typically bureaucratic title of "Confronting the New Health Care Crisis: Improving Health Care Quality and Lowering Costs by Fixing Our Medical Liability System." The 29-page report is worth reading, though, and can be found at http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/litrefm.pdf. An Adobe Acrobat reader is required.

House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Need some more light reading on the issue? Check out the testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 17 at http://energycommerce.house.gov/107/hearings/07172002Hearing648/hearing.htm. Among the witnesses was Richard E. Anderson, MD, the chief spokesperson for Physician Insurers Association of America and chair of The Doctors Company, the first national physician-owned medical liability insurer.

Health Administration Responsibility Project
This is a California-based group that wants to make sure "efficient" care doesn't exclude "quality" care. It wants to hold health maintenance organizations (HMOs) accountable for their decisions. Ex-Humana medical director and celebrated whistle-blower Linda Peeno, MD, is a member of its board. The group's Web site at www.harp.org/micra.htm offers strategies for getting around some of MICRA's limitations to nail the HMOs.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site at www.texmed.org. If you know of some interesting medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.  

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