Opinion

Talked to a doctor lately?

Healthcare is a word that conjures up many thoughts. For my mother, who is 62, it is a monthly check she writes to assure she has health coverage. She's not quite at the Medicare age and she isn't currently employed. The state program isn't taking any new applications so the only choice is for her to buy her own. Luckily, she can afford it, although it does cause her concern each month.

For a local doctor, healthcare is a way of life. The medical services available in this country are second to none in the world. But talk to your local doctor and find out their real concerns. Chances are they will tell you, especially if they are in a small private practice, that their liability insurance has doubled or even tripled in recent years.

With this increase in liability insurance, many doctors are facing the reality that they may not be able to practice in the state of Washington, or they may have to migrate to a larger practice or HMO. If you ask a doctor, chances are you will hear that the problem is epidemic in proportion.

Two bills were introduced in the current legislative session dealing with this issue of liability reform. The reason malpractice insurance is so high is that the limits for liability in the state of Washington are so high. The process to fix this imbalance is called Tort Reform and House Bill 3030 and Senate Bill 6520 each attempted to fix the problem. Unfortunately, as of this writing, both are failing in committee and will not likely see the floor.

House Bill 3030 would have made the distribution of liability equitable based on a person's proportionate share of fault. In other words, payments would be based on how much at fault the doctor, in this case, was in causing some type of harm. The Senate Bill basically does the same thing.

Both our district legislators, Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne, voted in favor of these reforms and should be commended for their actions. Lawsuits and liability are continuing to erode the abilities of our doctors to practice in a setting that is comfortable for them and their patients, namely private practice. If this trend continues, all of us will have to join an HMO to see our doctors, and finding an obstetrician will compare to finding a needle in a haystack.

Support our legislators' efforts at liability reform. Tell them we want them to sponsor a bill in every session until one passes that enacts these reforms. Without it we will all continue to pay higher premiums for healthcare, and people like my mom will eventually have to make a choice between paying her property taxes to stay in her home or health insurance.

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