WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., urged his colleagues to work together to address the issues of health care cost, quality, coverage and accessibility and to develop solutions that don’t require government intervention.
“Health care is not an issue that should be talking about in the future. It's an issue we need to be talking about now,” Isakson said. “It's time for the good men and women from both political parties to put all the issues on the table and not just talk about what they're not for but start talking about the solutions that can make a difference in the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care for the people of the United States of America.”
Isakson’s remarks focused on the need for reform in the medical malpractice tort system. Isakson sees the system as a barrier to care and a place where reform at the national level would go a long way towards encouraging future access to quality health care.
As a result of the current medical malpractice tort system, doctors are being targeted more often in lawsuits, especially high-risk specialists such as radiologists, OB/GYNs and orthopedists. Doctors are also forced to engage in defensive medicine as a result of the fear that they could be sued, making it more common and safer for them to order a battery of tests they would not otherwise order to cover their potential liability and adding to the overall cost of health care. Doctors are abandoning higher-risk specialties and rural areas, where they are often the sole practitioner and exposed to higher risk.
Isakson also praised the work of the Georgia General Assembly, which passed legislation in 2005 to reform medical malpractice torts. Specifically, the legislation eliminated joint and several liability, strengthened expert witness qualification, limited liability for emergency department physicians and personnel, elevated the burden of proof from “preponderance of evidence” to “clear and convincing evidence” and capped non-economic damages at $350,000. Prior to 2005, Georgia was listed as a state in a medical malpractice crisis by the American Medical Association. Since the reforms passed in January 2005, Georgia has been removed from that list.
Isakson is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. His speech is part of an eight-week effort by a group of Republican senators to discuss health care reform and common-sense conservative proposals in the health care debate.