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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, October 10, 2005

Access to Physicians' Services and the Cost of Med-Mal Coverage.

An article from the Oct. 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine:

Availability of Physician Services in Florida, Revisited: The Effect of the Professional Liability Insurance Market on Access to Health Care
Robert G. Brooks, MD; Nir Menachemi, PhD, MPH; Art Clawson, MS; Les Beitsch, MD, JD; Arch Intern Med. 2005;165:2136-2141:

Background:  Access to care remains a key part of improving health care outcomes in the United States. Recent reports have suggested that the number of physicians able to meet the demands for access to care may be decreasing.

Methods:  We surveyed physicians practicing in rural and urban/suburban areas of Florida in 2004 to determine whether changes were occurring in health care service delivery. Secondary outcomes assessed included changes in professional liability insurance and their possible effects on changes in service delivery.

Results:  Overall, 727 (54.4%) of responding physicians stated that the delivery of services had been decreased or eliminated in the previous year. The most commonly eliminated services were nursing home coverage (42.1%), vaginal deliveries (29.1%), cesarean deliveries (26.0%), emergency department coverage (22.8%), and mental health services (21.2%). Surgical specialists (70.2%) and general surgeons (68.5%) were the groups with the highest number of decreased or eliminated services, but this trend was broad, with 63.6% of obstetrician/gynecologists and 60.2% of family medicine physicians also decreasing or eliminating services. Decreases in services seem to be related to changes in professional liability insurance premiums when assessed by both percentage of change and total premium increases for physicians. Rural and urban/suburban physicians did not differ significantly in these assessments.

Conclusion:  The findings suggest that physicians across Florida have continued to decrease or eliminate important health services and that these decreases seem to be related to the difficulty of finding or paying for professional liability insurance.

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