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Strengthening Healthcare

Highlights of the New HHS Report, Confronting the New Health Care Crisis: Improving Health Care Quality and Lowering Cost by Fixing Our Medical Liability System

The HHS report includes a detailed review of recent studies on the consequences of out-of-control medical liability, and new evidence on the magnitude and consequences of the medical liability crisis that is threatening health care in many parts of America.

  • The medical liability crisis is threatening access to care in many states.
  • In Las Vegas, Nevada, the only Level 1 Trauma Center had to close temporarily because its surgeons could no longer afford malpractice insurance -- and it may have to close again. Overall, 10% or more of Las Vegas doctors may leave their practice as a result of the crisis, and many patients including expectant mothers cannot find a physician.
  • In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, dozens of physicians are ending their practices, depriving patients of long-term, trusted relationships and sometimes leaving them without a physician altogether.
  • In Mississippi, no doctors are available to deliver babies in many communities.
  • As a result, in many of these states, patients must travel to a different state in order to get care.
  • Many doctors cannot volunteer their services for patients who cannot pay, and the proportion of physicians who provide any charity care at all has declined, because doctors cannot afford the required liability coverage.

  • The medical liability crisis is threatening patient safety and quality of care.
  • Many preventable errors and complications in the health care system do not result from failures by individual doctors, but from problems in how health professionals work together to provide increasingly complex medical services. For this reason, health care organizations have been able to reduce errors and complications through better information systems and careful studies of how mistakes occur, and how to prevent them. For example, the doctors and hospitals of the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative has reduced blood infections in intensive care units by 20 percent through collaborative work to identify safer ways to treat intensive care patients.
  • But these efforts are impeded by litigation fears: good-faith efforts by medical professionals to generate new information and insights to improve care should not be rewarded by lawsuits based on this new information.

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