Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AMA President Hails Duval Doctors; Says Insurance Reform Needed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

AMA President Hails Duval Doctors; Says Insurance Reform Needed

Article excerpt

Byline: P. Douglas Filaroski, Times-Union staff writer

The head of the nation's largest doctors group said Duval County's health crisis would subside if lawmakers passed needed reforms, including caps on malpractice payouts.

American Medical Association President Yank Coble Jr. yesterday backed physicians who decided to stop working Friday due to rising malpractice insurance rates.

Coble, a Jacksonville physician himself, said reforms including a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering awards would help end the crisis here and across the nation.

"It is really tragic that such a situation -- loss of access -- has been forced [on residents]," said Coble, who spoke at the Duval County Medical Society.

Duval County health officials yesterday updated to 59 the number of patients treated since Friday through a publicly run contingency plan. Fifty-one of those were sent to different hospitals than the one they initially arrived at, but none outside the county.

The plan is covering for about 100 area surgeons who stopped working after the Legislature recessed without a fix for fast-rising insurance rates.

Gov. Jeb Bush plans to call lawmakers back next week to tackle the state's budget, with hopes of also taking on medical liability reform.

Coble said Duval County is only the latest area of the country to see doctors react with little choice to a national crisis.

"By a crisis, I mean patients who need care -- particularly acute emergency care -- having trouble finding it," said Coble, whose association names 17 states in crisis.

Coble noted states such as California are not among the crisis states because of reform laws that include caps on non-economic damages.

"It is part of the solution," Coble said of caps. "It is clearly not the entire solution."

Florida Medical Association President Robert Cline also called on lawmakers to act quickly.

"Let's try to avoid what's happening in Jacksonville . . . having a complete medical meltdown over all of Florida."

Patricia Frank, a county health spokeswoman, said all patients needing emergency care are receiving it through a system of hospital-to-hospital referrals. …

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