AAFP Statement: Family Physicians: Liability Reform Now!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

Statement Attributable to:
Larry S. Fields, M.D.
President, AAFP

WASHINGTON ― “America’s family physicians applaud President Bush for recognizing important national health care issues in his State of the Union Address.

“Of particular import was his unquestionable call for medical liability reform this year.

“Medical liability reform is a top priority of the AAFP, whose members include family physicians in small and large practices and in rural and urban areas. It is imperative that the President fulfills his promise for tort reform and that Senator Frist fulfills his to bring the issue to a floor vote in 2006.

“There are several states that have passed legislation regarding medical liability caps on non-economic damages (the only type of reform consistently shown to be effective). These states have seen a substantial drop in medical liability premiums and stabilization of long term rates.

“This leads to a more balanced physician-to-patient ratio which promotes better overall health. A federal initiative is necessary to ensure that medical malpractice suits are kept at a minimum and that more doctors keep their practices open.

“Many of the President’s health care proposals, if addressed appropriately, will help us continue to uphold the pledge family physicians have made to provide the best care we possibly can to our patients and their families.

“We commend President Bush for accepting the responsibility of providing health care for the poor, elderly and those without insurance. We stand ready to work with the President to make this a reality.

“The Academy agrees with President Bush that health savings accounts can be an important component to broaden heath care coverage, particularly at the level of preventive services. Unfortunately, this can only be a viable option for some of our citizens.

“Tax credits and tax breaks for the uninsured or self insured are also steps in the right direction. They can be beneficial for those who continue to pay the rising costs of health care year after year. Tax incentives will further help those owners of small businesses who would otherwise not be able to offer health insurance for their employees. Once again though, tax incentives are just a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Although beneficial for certain segments of the population, they do not provide enough access to quality health care for the most vulnerable of all, those who are poor, elderly or can’t afford insurance.

“We also applaud the President for his support of electronic health records. The AAFP is working to provide all our members with access to affordable EHRs. In fact, 30 percent of our members are currently using EHR technology. In support of this endeavor, we call for the passage of measures to allocate funds to increase the number of doctor’s using EHRs health so that we, as family physicians, can ensure that our patients receive safe, comprehensive and quality health care.

“As the debate on health system reform moves forward, family physicians will continue to strive diligently to make sure our patients receive the care they need and deserve.

“We look forward to working with the Administration to introduce and further advance initiatives that will ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care. This will truly make a difference in the character of our country.

“Given an adequate workforce of family physicians free to do what is right for the patient, America’s Family Doctors will give this country a health care system the likes of which the world has never seen.”

To interview Dr. Fields, please call Leslie Champlin at (800) 274-2237, ext. 5224.

Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

To learn more about the AAFP and family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. Follow us on Twitter,(twitter.com) and like us on Facebook. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.familydoctor.org(familydoctor.org).