Shortage of Doctors in Maryland?

The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun wrote yesterday about a new report that Maryland faces a doctor shortage that may well become severe by 2015.

We already have a shortage of doctors and things will get worse? I don’t know anyone – family, friend or client – who could not find a medical doctor when they needed one. Ever.

Who wrote the report? Well, if you go to the fourth paragraph of the Washington Post article, you learn that the report was commissioned by our good friends at MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. These are the same folks who warned of impending doom for doctors as the result of escalating medical malpractice cost. The same folks that came out with data supporting the future abyss.

Of course, that data turned out to be nonsense as evidenced by the fact that malpractice claims in Maryland dropped 32% over the following three years. But the MedChi cry of wolf did lead to new caps on medical malpractice cases in Maryland.

Another coincidence is the timing. Before the Maryland legislature began a special session to deal with the “medical malpractice” crisis, MedChi put out tons of information about how the sky was falling. Now, this report comes out – surprise! – just as the Maryland General Assembly goes into session. Having hoodwinked the Maryland legislature last time around, MedChi knows there is no chance of imposing new restrictions on damages in medical malpractice cases. Instead, I think their goal is to stop any groundswell to roll back those new restrictions and to apply pressure on the insurance companies to increase compensation.

Look, I’m all in favor of the insurance companies increasing doctor reimbursement rates. This issue makes the cost associated with medical malpractice claims seem like chump change. The only reason that MedChi targets medical malpractice cases is that medical malpractice lawyers are easy targets and injury victims are relatively small in number, so medical malpractice insurance rates are just an easier target for MedChi than taking on the insurance companies and their lobbyist.

This is not the first jurisdiction where doctors have complained about a doctor shortage where no shortage exists. Following this is a good editorial from Arizona on this topic.

I am not saying that there will never be a shortage of doctors in Maryland. What I am saying is that considering the messenger, I’m going to wait for an impartial study that tells me there is a crisis or until I talk to one person – anyone – who tells me they cannot find the medical care they need.

Reading back over this post, I hate that I sound so anti Maryland doctor. I’m not. I love Maryland doctors. I have three kids and I hope all three of them become doctors in Maryland. Years ago, I had cancer twice. Maryland doctors saved my life and I will be forever grateful to them. I’m not anti-doctor. And most doctors that I talk to don’t have strong opinions on these medical malpractice issues, with respect to insurance premiums, caps, or anything else. They just want to help their patients and earn the decent living to which they are entitled. I also realize that MedChi is doing their job, fighting for these doctors. I just think they are advocates without any credibility on these issues. So I find it incredibly annoying when the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun publish their findings as fact without questioning the source and MedChi’s possible ulterior motives.

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  • Jeremy D Tucker

    You are guilty of not supporting your assumptions with data as well. I practice emergency medicine in St. Mary’s County and Southern Maryland DOES have a doctor shortage problem. I know, I work here. I have many patients that cannot get into a primary care physician or a specialist. Talk to any hospital CEO at Civista, St. Marys, or Calvert Hospital and they will all tell you the same thing. While the shortage may not be evenly distributed about the state, the shortage is real and affects real people. You mentioned that you do not know anyone that has not been able to see a doctor. I imagine that in your nice neighborhood, your friends from the club, your colleagues have all been able to find doctors. You are out of touch with the rest of Maryland. If you are waiting for “one person to tell you they cannot find the medical care they need” come visit me in St. Mary’s county and I will introduce you to many. Maybe that will convince you. By the way, I am not a member of MedChi, have not attended any MedChi meetings and have no other motive to respond to your comment other than your gross misstatements that are baseless.

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