AMA: State has medical liability crisis
From staff and wire reports
June 18, 2002
JACKSON A report from the American Medical Association shows what doctors and other medical professionals in Mississippi have said for months the state has a medical liability crisis.
The AMA, holding its annual meeting in Chicago, released a 50-state analysis that identified 12 states including Mississippi as areas of greatest concern. The AMA said another 30 are showing potential problems.
Doctors are disappearing from America's communities on a regular basis because of skyrocketing medical liability insurance premiums and an out-of-control legal system,'' said Richard F. Corlin of Santa Monica, Calif., president of the AMA .
As insurance becomes unaffordable or unavailable, and the legal system produces multimillion-dollar jury awards on a regular basis, physicians are forced to limit services, leave their practice or relocate."
The Mississippi State Medical Association has said the state could lose up to 10 percent of its 4,000 practicing doctors this year. The AMA says 25 of the state's 82 counties have fewer doctors now than 12 years ago. Twenty-one of those 25 counties have 10 doctors or less.
Gov. Ronnie Musgrove has said he will call a special legislative session later this summer to work on the medical malpractice issue.
Friday special session
Musgrove has called lawmakers to Jackson on Friday for a special session on the planned expansion of a Nissan Motor Co. plant in Madison County. That session will be limited solely to Nissan.
Meanwhile, a special state legislative committee is expected this month to begin studying the larger issue of civil justice reform, more commonly called "tort reform." The committee also may study the malpractice issue.
State legislators had hoped to tackle the malpractice and tort reform issues during the regular 2002 legislative session. Lawmakers, however, ended the session without taking any action.
Apparently, the new AMA survey does not rank states. Joining Mississippi among the crisis states are Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia.
The AMA analysis was based on survey responses from state medical associations, reviews of the states' laws and legal climates and independent research.
Corlin and AMA representatives from several crisis states called on doctors and patients to push for medical liability reform in their state legislatures.
AMA delegates also received an advocacy awareness kit with sample letters, advertisements and posters that doctors can use in their offices.
Publicity turns ugly
Negative publicity for Mississippi on the matter has become commonplace.
In addition to numerous articles in national publications, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last month bought $100,000 of ads in Mississippi newspapers urging people to call on lawmakers to make changes to the state's flawed legal system.''
The organization warned its members about doing business in the state.
Trial lawyers say the state's civil justice system is operating properly and that if insurance companies are hurting financially it's because they have lost money in the stock market.
Rep. Chester Masterson, R-Vicksburg, a retired physician and a member of the latest tort reform study group, said he has two wishes capping punitive damages and limiting the places lawsuits can be filed.
Masterson said suits should only be allowed in the counties where an incident occurred or where a plaintiff or defendant lives.
Late last month, Musgrove said he's considering asking legislators to establish a state-sponsored insurance pool to provide medical malpractice coverage for doctors.