Don’t fall for ‘Patients’ Compensation Act’

Dr. William E. Silver
Dr. William E. Silver

As the president of the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), I get a chance to hear from physicians in every specialty and practice setting in the state on a daily basis.

I consequently believe that I’m qualified to state with confidence that the vast majority of our physicians agree that we need to continue to look for responsible and sustainable ways to improve Georgia’s tort system so they can spend more time with their patients – delivering what I believe is the best medical care in the world.

Yet I also know with certainty that the “Patients’ Compensation Act” (S.B. 141) that is under consideration by lawmakers in Georgia is a losing and unsustainable proposition.

It’s no surprise that with just three abstentions, MAG’s Board of Directors unanimously rejected this medical malpractice administrative tort system concept – which has no proven track record in the U.S. – at a meeting in early 2013.

At that meeting, S.B. 141 advocates told MAG’s board that the legislation would solve their problems because it would “lower premiums and save tax dollars and pay injured patients quicker.”

But having studied the concept in great depth and detail for more than a year, MAG knew that S.B. 141 was nothing more than a new tax – one that would be levied on physicians and hospitals (in the form of a “bed tax”) and other health care providers.

MAG determined that S.B. 141 would . . .

** Increase the number of claims that are filed

** Increase costs for physicians and other health care providers

** Repeal the remaining provisions of the tort reform bill (S.B. 3) that passed in Georgia in 2005, which has proved to be instrumental in creating a better medical practice environment in the state – an important consideration when it comes to ensuring that the state has enough physicians

MAG also learned that a study that Aon Risk Solutions conducted for the Patients for Fair Compensation organization projected that S.B. 141 would result in a 1,700 percent increase in claims for insignificant injuries like lacerations, bruises, minor scars, and rashes.

And MAG became even more convinced that the S.B. 141 model would fail when lawyer Mike Bowers, a former Georgia attorney general, determined that it would be ruled unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that other state medical societies have joined MAG in opposing this flawed bill.

As the leading voice for the medical profession in Georgia for 164 years, MAG will indeed continue to look for responsible and sustainable ways to improve Georgia’s tort system. Unfortunately, S.B. 141 is neither responsible or sustainable.

Dr. Silver is the president of the Medical Association of Georgia, which has nearly 7,500 physician members who represent every specialty and practice setting in the state.