Access to healthcare is issue of reform debate

By The Madison County Record | Nov 25, 2007

To the editor:

A Cook County Circuit Court judge recently ruled that the Illinois medical malpractice reform law of 2005 is unconstitutional. On the surface, this deals a severe blow to tort reform efforts throughout the state of Illinois and specifically to health care accessibility in Madison and St. Clair counties.

However, the case will now go directly to the Illinois Supreme Court for a definitive opinion at a much earlier date. This will expedite resolution of this debate and hasten stability in the medical malpractice climate and restoration of our medical communities.

The current situation in our two counties is that the departure of 170 physicians due to the malpractice crisis has stabilized somewhat, but new physicians in the area are largely hospital employees or physicians who are originally from this area. The rapid escalation of medical malpractice insurance premiums has leveled off, but at very high malpractice premium costs.

In spite of experimental, innovative judicial reforms in our own local courts, we will not rebuild our medical communities until there is legislative and judicial stability in medical malpractice litigation.

If the state Supreme Court rules the law constitutional, malpractice premiums will fall to reasonable levels, physicians will again come to this area to practice, and we will restore accessibility to timely, convenient, and excellent medical care.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson will lead the legal team for the Illinois State Medical Society. He will argue that the law was well researched and carefully crafted and that similar laws in many other states brought about increased numbers of physicians and resolution of health care access crises in those states.

The people of Madison and St. Clair Counties know that accessibility to health care is the indisputable, overriding issue in this case.

Robert Hamilton, M.D

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