The cumulative direct and indirect costs of medical
to be a pervasive driver of medical care expenses in Oregon.
is an ever increasing spiral of medical delivery costs that
essential medical care out of the economic reach of many
Oregonians. A number of thoughtful and appropriate medical
reform concepts have once again been introduced during this
legislative session. Unfortunately, the Democrat Senate
their intent to prevent any meaningful reform of Oregonís
intolerable medical liability situation.
liability costs are represented by the inordinately high
insurance premiums paid by all Oregon medical professionals.
premiums are a major cost of doing business in the Oregon
community. Just as in any other business, the only
medical community is to pass their costs on to their
instance they must recover their costs by higher billings to
costs are even more substantial and permeate the
medical care delivery trade. Unneeded tests, redundancy in
over-cautious pathology requests are made for the sole
to limit potential liability. For the same reason, extremely
imaging such as CAT scans and MRIís are routinely ordered
in lieu of
much less expensive x-rays, even though the latter would
suffice. These extreme and often unnecessary expenses are
incurred solely to defend against potential tort actions.
liability premiums are indexed to the potential risk of
for each procedure performed and the number of those
performed. Physicians routinely limit their scope of
cost of the liability insurance menu relating to specialties
obstetrics, neurology, orthopedic procedures, emergencies,
trauma and other critical care services. Too often those
become unavailable because the physician cannot afford the
costs of performing only a few such procedures and because
alternative sources of the service are not available.
particularly true in many rural areas of Oregon. The
already pays a portion of the medical liability insurance
certain practitioners in some rural areas to help the
their practices. Funding for the continuation of that
uncertain in this budget environment.
result of the loss of these rural practices is that many
in critical need of medical services must travel long
those services. The travel is not only burdensome and
inherent delay in obtaining critical medical services may be
unnecessary and prohibitively expensive equipment
are too often driven by tort liability concerns. Perfectly
and adequate equipment is routinely abandoned because
updated medical equipment could provide marginally better
This reality results in accelerated depreciation of the
requiring much higher charges per procedure in order to
investment costs. The reality is that much of this high
is not available in rural communities because the case
simply cannot pay for the accelerated costs. The only
discontinue the services provided through the use of the
responsible medical professionals understand and accept the
need to be held responsible for their errors and omissions
economic damages to their patients. However, what is making
services unaffordable in Oregon is the absence of any limit
awards for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
premiums for liability insurance against awards for tens of
of dollars in economic losses is affordable. Insurance
tens of millions of dollars in non-economic pain and
is not affordable.
a fair cap on non-economic medical liability has both
significantly reduced costs and improved the availability of
other states. These states have experienced large net
increases in both the number and quality of physicians and
other medical professionals practicing in their states.
At the same
time Oregon has experienced increasing costs,
quantity and quality of service and net losses in the number
professionals practicing their professions in our state. The
of those losses is uniformly higher across the rural
communities and appears to be accelerating. Specialty
services are no
available in many communities at any price.
It is past
time that Oregon follow suit in passing medical liability
reform. We know that a significant bipartisan majority of
chambers will strongly support medical liability tort reform
legislation. We have good reason to believe that Governor
a reasonable medical liability tort reform measure. It is
the Senate Democrat leadership to exercise some
a vote on this critically needed legislation.
Remember, if you do not stand up for rural Oregon, no one