U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today joined U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to address the severe shortage of OB/GYN doctors for women and expectant mothers in rural areas due to the excessive liability burden placed on providers.
Alexander signed on as a cosponsor to Gregg’s “Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Rural Access To Care” amendment to this year’s farm bill.
“Expecting mothers in rural areas shouldn’t have to drive for an hour or more to see their doctors,” said Lamar Alexander, a member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. “In 45 of Tennessee's 95 counties, pregnant mothers have to drive for miles to get prenatal health care and to deliver their babies. In 15 of those counties, pregnant mothers have no access whatsoever to any prenatal care within their counties. This amendment will help more families visit their doctors – and get the lawyers out of the way.”
Alexander said Gregg’s amendment is designed to improve women’s access to obstetrical and gynecological care in rural areas by providing full compensation to patients for medical costs, lost wages, and other tangible costs, while at the same time preventing frivolous lawsuits for OB/GYNs.
“In many rural areas of this country, women are losing access to local doctors and hospitals, often when they need them the most – when they are having children,” Gregg said. “It is not fair to the mother or the child, but it is happening too often because of frivolous lawsuits and the costs they put on the health care system.”
Nationally, 70 percent of OB/GYNs have made changes to their practice because of the lack of available or affordable medical liability insurance and nearly eight percent of doctors have stopped practicing obstetrics altogether, according to a survey conducted by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in 2006.
Gregg’s amendment incorporates the successful models used by the state of Texas in its 2003 reforms. Before medical liability reform in Texas, 2 out of every 3 Texas counties had no obstetrician; 1 out of every 3 doctors practicing could be expected to be sued in any given year; and insurance premiums increased between 22 and 128 percent over the preceding four years. Since the 2003 reforms, more than 4,000 doctors have applied for licenses to practice in Texas, and the state has gained 186 new obstetricians.