The AMA says the medical liability crisis is worsening nationally and has added six to its list of states in a medical liability crisis, bringing the total to 18.
The current liability systems in Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina are decreasing patient access to care, say AMA officials.
These states join Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and West Virginia on the association's list of states in med mal crisis.
The announcement came with the release in Washington, D.C., on Monday of a new AMA analysis being used as the organization begins its national advocacy conference to push for federal liability reform.
"How many more patients will have to lose access to medical care before lawmakers decide to act to pass proven reforms, including a cap on non-economic damages?" asks AMA President Yank Coble Jr., M.D.
Coble says HR 5, known as the HEALTH Act, which places a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering, is "the cure that must be used" to solve the liability crisis.
Coble says that in Connecticut, jury awards and settlements in malpractice cases have doubled since 1997, with the average claim paid by insurers increasing by a half-million dollars.
He also cites a 200% increase in malpractice insurance premiums being paid by emergency physicians in Kentucky and says nearly one-quarter of the state's physicians say they are considering leaving the state because of the medical liability concerns.
Some 84% of Americans believe that the liability crisis is compromising the availability of care, according to a poll released by the Health Coalition on Liability and Access, a national advocacy group of 50 organizations representing physicians, hospitals, insurers and others. The poll data, collected from 1,000 adults in February, was released at the same press event as the AMA analysis.
Three-quarters of Americans support a law that guarantees payment for economic losses but reasonably limits awards for noneconomic damages, the poll finds.
"The American public believes these reforms are urgently needed," says Christian Shalgian, chairman of HCLA. "The 'disappearing doctor' phenomenon is getting progressively and rapidly worse. We urge every member of Congress to support the HEALTH Act, a bill that represents a proven solution based on reforms Americans support."
AMA President-elect Donald Palmisano, M.D., says the MICRA law passed in California in 1976, which the House bill is modeled after, works to limit the skyrocketing of malpractice insurance premiums being experienced in other states. Medical liability premiums have increased three times faster in other states than in California, he says, with national rates up by 505% while California rates increased 175%.
Palmisano calls the House proposal an "emergency fix to stabilize the market" and says other reform efforts, such as a CMS demonstration project, are needed.
Outside the press conference, a group representing patients who have been injured or killed by medical malpractice in six states, waited to deliver a letter to Palmisano and the AMA.
"Each of us deserves to have jurors and a judge, who have heard all the facts and weighed all the evidence, decide what compensation is bast," the letter says. "We respectfully request that you end your campaign to enact limits on patients' legal rights, and to stop trying to solve doctors' insurance problems on the backs of injured patients and their loved ones."
Palmisano and Coble answered that patients can and should receive compensation in the form of economic damages. But they said noneconomic damages should be predictable so that the public knows what they are paying for.
"Society has to make a choice," Palmisano said. "Do you want unlimited awards or assurance that others have access to care?"