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For Release:
May 29, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner

Statement of Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services on Medical Malpractice


In New Jersey, the cost of medical liability insurance for physicians has risen dramatically and continues to increase.  Physicians, who are experiencing increasing practice expenses, now also must pay dramatically rising insurance premiums and have no means of passing along these increased costs to health insurers because of fixed or decreasing reimbursement rates.


This may force physicians to retire early, leave New Jersey to practice in states with lower premiums, or stop performing the higher risk procedures that are responsible for higher premium rates.  Immediate steps such as premium subsidies for physicians must be taken quickly to alleviate this problem while other longer term remedial measures are implemented.


A number of solutions have been proposed and/or implemented across the country to provide relief.  Solutions that have been reported or suggested to be effective include insurance market interventions, tort reforms, alternate dispute resolution, and patient safety efforts.


Premium subsidies provide immediate relief but, because their impact will be temporary, they must be complemented by other steps such as changes in the legal system and efforts to improve patient safety.


The Department of Health and Senior Services endorses a multi-faceted approach to address the medical malpractice insurance crisis in New Jersey.  With the impending threat to access to high risk specialty care, an immediate intervention is warranted in the form of premium subsidies, while other longer term solutions are implemented and yield benefit in the future.



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