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Medical liability reform will ease doctor shortage

Kudos to The News for reporting on the doctor shortage in upstate and Western New York. Unfortunately, the article cited “experts” saying that the reason we are facing a doctor shortage is that upstate New York lacks “amenities” and has “brutal winter weather.”

As upstaters, we know that this area is a wonderful area to live, with plenty of amenities that cannot be found anywhere else.

The real reason that doctors are not choosing upstate New York is the astronomical cost of lawsuits and medical liability insurance. New York’s medical liability payouts are the highest in the nation – more than three times the national average. Medical liability insurance in New York is so expensive that taxpayers now pay more than $120 million annually to subsidize premiums. For many doctors, avoiding New York is simply a sensible economic decision.

For personal injury attorneys, New York is a great place to live. We have lax judicial rules and a host of technical tricks and loopholes that give plaintiffs’ attorneys the upper hand in court. With the highest number of attorneys per capita in the nation, there is no shortage of lawyers here.

Our medical liability system is in critical condition. We need stronger legal rules to make upstate more attractive to doctors and less attractive to personal injury lawyers. We need higher standards for expert testimony, stronger certificates of merit and stricter penalties for frivolous lawsuits. Other states such as California and Texas have successfully used medical liability reform to help attract new doctors. Until we follow suit, doctors will continue to avoid upstate.

Thomas B. Stebbins

Executive Director, Lawsuit

Reform Alliance of New York