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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2003

Insurance costs cited in shortage of doctors

The president of the American Medical Association said yesterday in Toledo that rising malpractice premiums are causing a physician shortage that is hurting patients access to care.

Dr. Donald Palmisano, AMA president, repeating remarks his predecessor made in Toledo in March, puts the blame for the price increases squarely on the shoulders of lawyers and overly litigious patients.

“As a result of escalating lawsuits, more and more Americans are finding no medical care at any price,” Dr. Palmisano said at the Toledo Rotary Club luncheon.

Nineteen states, including Ohio, are labeled “crisis” states by the AMA, meaning malpractice premiums are so high it s causing a physician shortage as doctors retire early or stop doing high-risk procedures.

Critics of the AMA say the group is wrong to focus on so-called frivolous lawsuits, and point to other factors causing price increases.

Concern about the rates prompted the Ohio General Assembly to pass a “tort reform” bill that caps non-economic damages at $500,000 per individual, with some exceptions. However, many physicians say until the law is challenged and the state Supreme Court - which has thrown out previous laws - rules the law valid, rates won t come down.

AMA officials have traveled to northwest Ohio several times in the last year to speak out about malpractice prices. In addition to Dr. Palmisano, Dr. Yank Coble, the previous AMA president, spoke to the Rotary in March about malpractice. Last October, Dr. Palmisano spoke about the same topic during a conference at Lourdes College in Sylvania.

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