Friday, April 16, 2004

Costs may force exodus, doctors warn

By Leo Shane III
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - More than half of Ohio's doctors expect to stop practicing by 2008 if malpractice insurance rates continue to rise, according to a survey released Thursday by the state's largest physicians' organization.

In a poll of about 1,000 members of the Ohio State Medical Association, 34 percent said they expect to close down their operations in the next two years and 58 percent expect to stop practicing medicine in the next three years.

Tim Maglione, legislative council for the group, called those statistics a wake-up call for lawmakers.

"We've known a lot of doctors are struggling, but when you see more than a third are looking at leaving in the next two years it shows how serious the insurance problem is," he said.

"We hope this prompts the legislature to act more quickly to do something."

The poll comes out just days before two hearings in Columbus where lawmakers will be discussing malpractice reform issues.

On Monday, a medical malpractice commission will hear from several insurance executives who are expected to discuss why rates remain high despite a recently passed bill that limits damages in malpractice cases.

On Tuesday, a House committee hearing begins on a doctor-backed proposal to create review panels that would judge the merits of malpractice allegations before they go further into the court system.

Enquirer reporter Tim Bonfield contributed to this story.

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