newly formed Women’s Legislative Caucus held a hearing into women’s healthcare
disparities in New Jersey. The bicameral,
bipartisan caucus is chaired by Assemblywomen Amy Handlin and
L. Grace Spencer,
and Senators Loretta
Weinberg and Diane
Allen. Below is the testimony I gave
to the committee. You can read the Caucus’s statement here.
the Women's Legislative Caucus
Rayner, executive director
Lawsuit Reform Alliance
Access to Health Care Services
Monday, June 7,
want to thank the Women's Legislative Caucus and its co-chairs for the
opportunity to testify here today. As
you may know, the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance (NJLRA) was created in
2007 out of a broad concern among business leaders and professionals in the
medical community about the state of New Jersey's civil justice system. I am very pleased that the Caucus has
convened this hearing to look at the various ways that access to care is
limited in certain health care services for women in New Jersey.
the national debate on health-care reform and tort reform unfolds, it is worth
noting that here in New Jersey, we have our own health- care crisis under way.
And it is driving out physicians, limiting patient access to care and
increasing the cost of health care for all of us.
many existing and aspiring medical students in New Jersey, the dream of practicing
specialized medicine faces a significant hurdle: malpractice insurance
premiums. Too many promising medical
students are becoming a casualty of our litigious health-care system. This, in turn, limits the number of
specialized medical doctors such as OG/GYNs in our state and eliminates access
to care for thousands of New Jersey women.
some point in their education, medical students realize that in order to have a
solvent future as an OB/GYN, they will have to deliver scores of newborns each
quarter just to afford the cost of the high malpractice premium. Rates have
skyrocketed for doctors practicing specialized medicine during the last few
years. In order to simply maintain a viable practice, many doctors will likely
have to see more patients and deliver more babies than any doctor reasonably
could without compromising quality of care for patients.
many will opt to not treat various patients, such as emergency room or acute
care patients, because of the liability that doing so presents. These decisions are the direct result of the
high medical malpractice premiums facing specialty doctors in New Jersey today.
insurance costs so much because New Jersey's current civil justice laws are
decisively anti-physician. Malpractice awards in New Jersey are not capped, for
one, as they are in thirty-two other states. In addition, some New Jersey
courts allow cases to be built around weak "junk science" that is
often not permissible in other jurisdictions. As a result, New Jersey's courts
have become a lottery for those wanting to turn an unfortunate medical outcome
into a payday. Physicians, therefore, are required to prepare themselves with
sufficient insurance should they find themselves -- or others with whom they
share a practice or support staff -- to be the victim of frivolous litigation. As
I mentioned, this excessive physician liability can also force many doctors to
abandon specialized medicine altogether, leaving many patients without care.
both federal and state governments bear responsibility for setting civil
justice and medical malpractice policy, aspiring physicians in New Jersey are
at a notable disadvantage. Medicine bears the distinction of being both
business and personal. Why practice specialized medicine in New Jersey when other
states, including some of our neighbors, offer much less burdensome
Pennsylvania, for example, punitive damages against individual physicians is
limited to 200% of compensatory damages.
Many of you may be familiar with the successful medical malpractice
reforms in Texas, which after capping medical malpractice awards in 2003 saw an
average 21.3% annual decrease in medical
malpractice premiums in the following four years. As a result, the number of medical license
applications in Texas increased 18% in the four years since the state
legislature enacted the caps. (Source, The New York Times, More Doctors in Texas After Malpractice Caps, October 5, 2007).
Mississippi experienced 25% annual increases in
medical malpractice premiums prior to their reforms and even created a state
insurance pool to offer coverage to doctors.
After their reforms, rates plummeted and the State of Mississippi was
able to sell the state insurance pool.
to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all but 15 states have
adopted some limit on medical malpractice awards. New Jersey must join the majority of states
in adopting some reasonable limits on medical damage awards. Without them, we will continue to force
doctors out of our state and we will limit care to thousands of our most
vulnerable women and children.