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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
February 03, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner or Thomas Slater
(609) 984-7160

Statement by Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. Commissioner of Health and Senior Services On Proposed Work Stoppage by Physicians


Today many doctors in New Jersey are engaging in a work stoppage intended to draw attention to rising medical malpractice insurance premiums.  The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) disagrees with this action.  DHSS, the Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI), the administration and state legislators have been working diligently with New Jersey's medical leadership to craft immediate and long-lasting solutions to this problem. 


An enormous amount of attention has been paid to this issue.  Numerous individuals have invested significant time and energy to find workable solutions.  A work stoppage adds nothing productive and potentially creates problems of patient access to care.  What is needed now is for our state's medical leadership to return to the table as an active partner in designing solutions to this problem.


The Board of Medical Examiners (BME), which regulates physicians, and DHSS, which regulates health care facilities, are concerned about patient access.  Physician lack of availability at times of patient emergency may constitute a form of patient abandonment which is antithetical to the ethical responsibilities of medical professionals and violates BME regulations.  The BME has indicated it will take appropriate action against physicians who are unavailable for their patients in emergency situations.


Individuals unable to access needed medical care from their physicians should call their health insurance providers or local hospitals for referrals to other physicians in their communities.  Individuals unable to obtain emergency care should access their local community hospitals' emergency departments.  Individuals who feel that they have been denied needed medical care should contact the State Board of Medical Examiners by mail at P.O. Box 183, Trenton, NJ 08625 or by telephone at 609-826-7100.


The State understands physicians' financial predicament.  Rising costs, including those related to medical malpractice insurance premiums, in the face of fixed or decreasing fees paid by health insurers, place an increasing financial burden on medical practices.  Physicians cannot shift increased expenses to insurers the way other businesses raise the price of a product in response to increases in cost. 


This is a national problem, not one unique to New Jersey.  The administration is committed to providing New Jersey with substantive medical malpractice insurance reform to maintain physicians in practice and preserve access to health care for patients.


DOBI addressed the issue of insurance availability in the past year by approving three new carriers to write policies for physicians in New Jersey.  DOBI also negotiated with insurance carriers to obtain new or renewal policies for physicians experiencing difficulties getting coverage.  In addition, DOBI has also ordered insurance companies to offer doctors options in coverage that can result in lower premiums.


This administration has worked in good faith with New Jersey physicians on this national problem.  We have explored options and proposed remedies.  We encourage our physician colleagues to return to the table to partner in crafting meaningful short- and long-term solutions to the medical malpractice insurance problem.

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