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AMA Voices Support for Medical Liability Reforms Proposed by Governor Cuomo

For immediate release:
March 17, 2011

CHICAGO -- The American Medical Association (AMA) today delivered a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commending his leadership on the vital issue of medical liability reform. The reforms attached to the Governor's budget proposal provide a common-sense solution that allows patients their day in court and safeguards accessible medical care.

"Governor Cuomo's proposal reflects the fact that preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing cost, will require fairness in the civil justice system," said AMA President Cecil B. Wilson, M.D. "Every dollar spent on the broken medical liability system is a dollar that can not be used to improve patient care."

The medical liability system has failed patients by inviting abuse and choking the system with claims that lack merit. According to a 2006 Harvard study, 40 percent of claims lack any evidence of either a medical error or patient injury. Additional evidence shows that nearly two-thirds of claims against physicians that closed in 2009 were dropped, withdrawn or dismissed.

High jury awards and the cost of defending against excess litigation has resulted in record high medical liability premiums for some physicians in New York. In Long Island, an obstetrician/gynecologist pays nearly $187,000, and a general surgeon pays nearly $116,000. Record premiums can have a devastating impact on New York's patients by threatening the viability of physicians practicing in these high-risk specialties.  

Fear and mistrust of the legal system takes a heavy financial toll on our health care system. Defensive medicine, extra precautionary measures physicians take to avoid being sued, is estimated to cost $70-$126 billion per year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Proven reforms are needed in New York state to rein in the broken medical liability system, reduce the growth of health care costs, and preserve patients' access to medical care," said Dr. Wilson.

To stabilize the traumatic condition of the medical liability system in News York state, the AMA strongly supports proven reforms like those endorsed by Governor Cuomo that allow unlimited payment for economic damages, while capping non-economic damages at a quarter of a million dollars.

"Evidence shows the same reforms supported by Governor Cuomo are working in states such as California and Texas to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of patients who have been harmed and the needs of millions of Americans who need affordable, accessible medical care," said Dr. Wilson.

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Contact:

Shannon O'Brien
AMA Media Relations
(312) 464-4443

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