Facing a tough legislative battle for its proposed cap on noneconomic damages, the Pennsylvania Medical Society today released a study showing that nearly half the state's counties are losing physicians, apparently due to its poor malpractice climate.
Reviewing data from the U.S. Bureau of Health Professions and the AMA from 1997 to 2002, the study also finds overall state declines in several specialties. Specifically, the study reports:
- 600 fewer general surgeons
- 145 fewer orthopedic surgeons
- 35 fewer neurosurgeons
- 80 fewer anesthesiologists
- 40 fewer obstetricians
"The current legal system is whittling away at Pennsylvania medicine," says society President Edward Dench Jr., M.D., in a statement.
Also from 1997 to 2000, the study finds there were 450 fewer physicians in Philadelphia, a med mal hotspot where half of all medical liability verdicts hit $1 million or more between 1994 and 2001.
The medical society endorses a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice cases, which would require a constitutional amendment. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House voted in favor of a constitutional amendment for the cap.
But the cap was missing from the lengthy malpractice reform package unveiled Monday by Democrat Gov. Ed Rendell
Rendell's package does, however, include significant financial relief for Pennsylvania physicians. Over the next three years, Rendell would eliminate or cut in half premiums that physicians have to pay for a state-run supplemental malpractice insurance company. But the governor has not stated how he would pay for these cuts.