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Jessica Agnelly
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ITLA Draws Attention to Misleading Charges of “Doctor Shortage”


It is not uncommon for proponents of “tort reform” to claim a direct linkage to the arena of medical malpractice lawsuits brought against doctors and a resulting shortage of physicians and escalating costs of health care, no matter how tenuous the connection. This month the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association weighed in on the public debate that’s going on in their state, with a timely letter to the editor that responded to an article titled“State faces doctor shortage in coming years, ISMS president warns.”

In that rebuttal, ITLA president Todd Smith writes that Illinois State Medical Society president Steven Malkin “draws false conclusions from incomplete factual representations.” In that original article, Dr. Malkin points to a future crisis of a physician shortage (in spite of the American Medical Association reporting that there has not ever been a decline in doctors in the state of Illinois for the last 45 years, Smith writes).

Smith also counters an ISMS statement that was intended to serve as a local illustration of the trend: “Dr. Malkin tried to tie malpractice suits to an inability to attract physicians to the Hillsboro area. According to the Montgomery County (Hillsboro) Court Clerk’s office there has only been 1 or 2 medical cases filed per year over the last 10 years. In 2010, one case was filed involving a physician’s care. There is no excuse for doctors having to pay high insurance premiums around Hillsboro. Those doctors should not be interested in malpractice lawsuit reform. They should be clamoring for insurance reform. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Malkin and your paper would allow such a misleading and false impression to be left with your readers, and doing so without carefully checking the facts.”

Those who advocate for tort reform the loudest are often the least consistent in their criticism of the current scope of that which needs to be reformed. And, this is not the first (or the last) time where the interests of medicine and money don’t align, and the media covers that conflict. ITLA’s role in drawing attention to an under-reported story should be commended, as telling the facts behind the real story is a watchdog role that, were it not filled by someone, would lead one to believe that medical professionals in the state of Illinois were soon expected to be a dying breed.


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  1. Joe K. says:
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    The Illinois Medical Malpractice market is as competitive as it has been in nearly a decade. There are many carriers competing for business, and rates have decreased steadily. A primary care doctor is Madison County for example who was paying roughly $40,000 a year a few years ago is now paying as low as $20,000 to $25,000. Even though the caps were over turned there has been no signs of the market hardening as of yet.

  2. james O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS says:
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    Advocates for any position will take a fact and mold it, until it suits their purpose = politics. It only needs to be based in truth. It is based in truth.

    Doctors do, and have moved to more friendly climates because of med mal rates, and fear of losing all of their stuff, related to decisions of non peer group juries.

    There are counties in Florida that do not have an OB. Try to find a neurosurgeon in Palm Beach county. Serious Neuro-surgical cases, in South Florida usually end up at Shands, 300 miles away. Dont even stop in Orlando, it would do you no good. Shands just had a huge verdict against them( no coverage, by the way). T he plaintiff and her attorney were from south Miami.

    So why is that? If you are a talented and enterprising neurosurgeon or OB, wouldn’t you consider opening a practice in an area with a large population and no other Docs of your specialty? Please tell me why that does not happen, if not due to med mal concerns.
    regards Jim O’Hare RPLU AIC AIS
    VP med mal claims Physicians Ins CO Pompano Fl

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    Mr. O’Hare:
    Thanks for reading and commenting on this blog post.

    According to a 2010 study by the nonprofit group Public Citizen, the number of medical malpractice payments made on behalf of physicians in 2009 was the lowest since the creation of the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which has tracked medical malpractice payments since 1990. The cumulative value of malpractice payments in 2009 was the lowest since 1999 in actual (unadjusted) dollars. If adjusted for inflation, payments were either the lowest or the second lowest on record. In spite of insurance premiums continuing to go up, this independent research showed that based on estimates of medical errors and deaths from malpractice, just one in 57 deaths was compensated during the entire year. This means that more than 80% of deaths from medical negligence didn’t produce a damage award.

    The right to a civil trial by jury is a fundamental right codified in the 7th Amendment. Civil justice is the ultimate linchpin for all other constitutional rights. What is your remedy if someone violates your right to free speech? To practice the religion of your choice? To keep and bear arms? To enter into a contract? Without the right to a civil jury trial, each of these fundamental liberties is at risk. Without the right to jury trial and rule of law, business and the economy grinds to a halt. If the wrongdoer is not responsible, who then bears the cost? If the victim is independently wealthy, perhaps they can shoulder the burden. But if they aren’t, damages bankrupt the victim and you and I shoulder the burden through Medicare, Social Security, and federal disability. Do we want to subsidize negligent actors via a taxpayer funded bailout?

    An additional question for you: you have espoused similar opinions on many other sites online that address these topics. Are you being paid to post these comments by the insurance industry or a related group?

  4. james O'Hare RPLU AIC AIS says:
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    Dear Jessica- No, I am not paid. Why would you suggest that? I enjoy a good debate and to claim that my opinions are related to a paycheck is weak. Without opposing viewpoints you would only preach to your own choir. You seem generally surprised that I have an opposing view. I am from the other side of the fence.

    I am a med mal claims guy with 25 years exp, a former xray tech and paralegal. I am an interested party to the med mal discussions. I like it and can support my statements.

    A few things in response :
    – Re the number of med mal payments being low. Your first assumption is that the brick and mortar insurance fat cats are not forking over the money like they should. Maybe there are fewer meritorious claims, or other legitimate reasons. Have you considered other reasons?

    – Insurance premiums have not continued to go up. This market is as soft as a bag of yogurt. There are now 30 writers of med mal in Florida and 57 in West Virginia, when med mal used to be a horror show in those states, with only one or two writers. Competition is fierce.

    – “Only one in 57 deaths is compensated?” Is that science. Who counts the number of dead people that are caused by med mal? Yep – there is another one, call the bureau of med mal deaths to report it.” Who has that job and why aren’t they reporting it to the plaintiffs bar for litigation.

    Is the defense bar winning 56/57 of those death cases. It is a bogus argument. A similar argument was provided to me by a PETA friend. She told me that there are less than 1 million whitetail hunters in NY, out of a 15 million population, therefore, 14 million people are against hunting. Not science or even logical.

    – Please point out where I am against trials or the right to have one? I have discussed what a Peer is.

    A “PEER” is not what doctors get and never have. This is a huge advantage to the plaintiffs bar. I do not expect you to claim that this is unfair to the physician. This is good for your chances of winning. You are actually arguing about the 5-6% of cases that actually get to trial.

    – – Bad doctors need to go. I have never endorsed a bad doc continue to practice. Part of my job is to tell underwriting who is bad and needs to go away. I want good care for me and for you.

    I would focus on arguing for higher limits of insurance, mandatory insurance for a doc to practice. I need it to drive, but docs don’t to poke in a patients brain. Maybe arbitration with a 2 month time limit for discovery. Deadlines work.

    By the way – What should I get paid?
    Thanks for allowing me to play in your sandbox.
    Jim O’Hare VP claims

  5. Joe K. says:
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    It is nice to see someone out arguing on this side. I could not agree with your position more!