Visiting doctors in Scranton, Pa., who almost walked off their jobs recently to protest rising costs of malpractice insurance premium, President Bush repeated his call for passage of tort reform in Congress.
"You need reform in Pennsylvania, and we need reform all across America," Bush said today. "We need a law coming out of the United States Congress."
"When a doc can't pay the premiums and, therefore, can't practice, somebody is going without health care," he told doctors and dignitaries at the University of Scranton. "It strains the system."
Bush said he supports HR 4600, sponsored by Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-Pa.). The bill passed the House but fizzled in the Senate last year, as has happened to numerous federal tort reform proposals over the years.
The Greenwood bill, to be reintroduced this year, includes a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, a primary reform goal of doctors.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, Gov.-elect Ed Rendell averted a planned shutdown of some practices in Scranton with a proposal he unveiled in late December.
Rendell, a Democrat who assumes office next Tuesday, announced he would help weed out frivolous lawsuits and give Pennsylvania doctors $200 million in subsidies to from a one-time levy on health insurers to help pay their malpractice premiums.
Debra DeAngelo, M.D., an anesthesiologist who met with Bush, said in a press conference telecast after the speech that she was impressed with the president's view of the situation.
"He said everything I've been thinking for the past two years," said DeAngelo, who says she was forced to move from Scranton, her hometown, and relocate in Hershey, Pa., because of malpractice rates.
"Everything that we've been thinking on a day-by-day basis, what we've been suffering through, he knows it," she added.
"So what happens is, doctors say, well, gosh, I can't afford it here in Pennsylvania, I'm moving," Bush continued. "I'll just take my heart and my skills to another community where I can afford it. But when that happens, somebody hurts. Somebody doesn't have the care."