The stories are legion: pregnant women unable to find doctors to deliver their babies because disgruntled obstetricians have closed their practices or retired in droves; white-coated physicians hitting the picket lines and threatening to shut down emergency rooms; desperate patients forced to travel long distances to find a specialist willing to perform lifesaving surgery.
The culprit, according to the American Medical Association (AMA) and President Bush: multimillion-dollar jury awards in malpractice cases that have resulted in insurance premium increases so huge that they are forcing doctors out of business and jeopardizing patients' access to health care.
But a new study by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, has reached a very different conclusion about the effect of rising malpractice premiums on consumers. Investigators who studied nine states found instances of localized but not widespread problems of access to health care mostly in "scattered, often rural, areas" that have long-standing problems attracting doctors.
And many of those highly publicized accounts of doctors who have retired or moved are, according to the GAO, either "not substantiated," temporary or involved only a few physicians....
The sob stories? Some of them seem to be out-and-out lies:
In Florida, where the state medical society told congressional investigators that all the neurosurgeons in Collier and Lee counties had stopped practicing, the GAO found at least five such specialists at work in each county. Although medical groups have repeatedly warned that doctors are reluctant to come to Florida because of escalating premiums, the GAO found that the number of new medical licenses issued by the state has increased in the past two years.
Limits were put on civil suits in George W. Bush's Texas. He wants the same thing to happen nationwide. He became president and -- what do you know? -- suddenly we started hearing this was a crisis.
Why do we ever give credence to any assertion that advances the Bush agenda?
(Thanks to BuzzFlash for the link.)