The Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun wrote yesterday about a recent report that Maryland faces a doctor shortage that may well become severe by 2015.
Who wrote the report? Well, if you go to the fourth paragraph of the Washington Post article, you learn that our good friends at MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, commissioned the report. These are the same folks who warned of impending doom for doctors as the result of escalating medical malpractice costs. The same folks that came out with data supporting the future abyss.
That data turned out to be nonsense as evidenced because malpractice claims in Maryland dropped 32% over the following three years. But that MedChi’s crying of wolf led 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, 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 will 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 firm opinions on these medical malpractice issues, regarding insurance premiums, caps, or anything else. They just want to help their patients and earn a decent living.
I also realize that MedChi is doing their job, fighting for these doctors. I just think they are advocates with no credibility on these issues. So I find it annoying when the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun publish their findings as fact without questioning the source and MedChi’s possible ulterior motives.
2019 Update: We still have tons of doctors and insurance rates are heading down.