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For Release:
January 17, 2003

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

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

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


The McGreevey administration is committed to providing New Jersey with substantive medical malpractice insurance reform that maintains physicians in practice and preserves access to health care for New Jersey patients.

Current problems in New Jersey and nationally revolve around availability and affordability of medical malpractice insurance.

The Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) has addressed the issue of insurance availability by approving three new carriers to write policies for physicians in New Jersey. DOBI has 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.

Affordability of insurance remains a problem and is currently being addressed. Because of fixed or decreasing reimbursement rates, physicians are unable to shift the increased cost of medical malpractice premiums to health insurers. The increased premium expense may force some physicians to alter the scope of their practices or leave practice altogether. Thus far, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is unaware of any instances of malpractice-related access-to-care problems in the state of New Jersey.

DHSS, in conjunction with DOBI and legislators, has had extensive discussions with the state's health care leadership, including the Medical Society of New Jersey and the New Jersey Hospital Association. A number of solutions to the medical malpractice affordability problem have been proposed.

The physicians' work stoppage was designed to draw attention to this issue. DHSS disagrees with the physicians' plans to stage a work stoppage. Medical malpractice insurance issues are already receiving enormous attention from DHSS, DOBI, the Legislature and the health care leadership of this state. In addition, we have significant concerns that a work stoppage could negatively affect patients access to physicians.

This administration has worked in good faith with New Jersey doctors on this national problem. We will continue to work with our physician colleagues on meaningful solutions. While this progresses, the physician community of New Jersey not should pursue a work stoppage, but rather continue to actively discuss the short- and long-term solutions to the medical malpractice insurance problem.

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