|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
OCTOBER 6, 2004
|CONTACT: Public Citizen
Cheneys Claims in V.P. Debate and New Bush-Cheney Medical Malpractice Ad Continue Campaign of Deception and Distortion
Government Data and Studies Show Bush-Cheney Claims About Insurance Rates and Access to Doctors Have No Foundation
WASHINGTON - October 6 - Statements made by Vice President Dick Cheney in his debate with Sen. John Edwards last night as well as the new Bush-Cheney TV ad alleging that there’s a “crisis in women’s access to healthcare” caused by Democrats blocking “legal reform[s] to stop the frivolous lawsuits” is an exercise in deception and distortion according to a Public Citizen analysis of Cheney’s statements and the ad.
“We recognize that some doctors in some states have suffered from large premium increases over the past two years,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “But those rate hikes were caused by a sour economy that resulted in investment losses or lower than expected earnings from stocks and bonds – the principal way insurance companies make money. It had nothing to do with lawsuits and the legal system. Limiting patients’ legal rights, as President Bush and Vice President Cheney seek to do, will have no affect on insurance rates and will only harm the most severely injured victims of medical malpractice a second time.”
Debate Fact Check
1) Cheney overstates Wyoming doctors’ premiums by a factor of six.
Cheney stated: “[In Wyoming] rates for a general practitioner have gone from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year for an insurance policy.”
The Facts: In 2004, the insurance rate for the state’s leading underwriter (Doctors Company) for family general practice was $15,322 (no obstetrics, no surgery), according to a non-partisan report from the Wyoming Legislative Service Office.
2) Cheney’s disappearing doctor figure is contradicted by hard numbers
Cheney stated: “We’ve lost one out of 11 OB/GYN practitioners in the country.”
The Facts: Cheney apparently relied on a survey commissioned by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in which 9 percent of respondents said they had ceased practice.But every year thousands of obstetricians stop delivering babies as they get older. The ACOG survey did not attempt to determine whether malpractice rates were a statistically significant factor affecting OB/GYNs’ decisions.
In fact, the number of board-certified OB/GYNs in the United States grew by 18.1 percent from 1999 to 2004, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties. Meanwhile, the population of women of child-bearing age (15 to 44) increased only 2.9 percent from 1999 to 2003, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
There are other studies that undercut the validity of Cheney’s assertion:
3) Cheney’s New Mexico anecdote is revealing: caps on damages don’t lower doctors’ insurance premiums.
Cheney stated: “I was in New Mexico the other day and met with a group of OB/GYN docs.
And they were deeply concerned because they were fearful that there’d be another increase in malpractice insurance rates as a result of what they believe are frivolous lawsuits and that that would put them out of business. And one doctor indicated that her rates have gone up so much that she’s now to the point where she is screening patients. She won’t take high-risk patients anymore because of the danger that that will generate a lawsuit, and a lawsuit will put her out of business.”
The Facts: Cheney is correct that rates have risen in New Mexico, where there already is a cap on non-economic damages. But this only proves that his “solution” to a temporary spike in rates – a cap on non-economic damages – does not lower doctors’ premiums. According to Medical Liability Monitor, rates for OB/GYNs went up in New Mexico by 52 percent in 2003, but that was more than in either of its neighboring states, Arizona and Texas, which did not have caps in 2003. In fact, the New Mexico insurance company (Mutual Insurance Company of Arizona), which increased its rates 52 percent in 2003, increased its rates 11 to 14 percent in Arizona that year.
Bush-Cheney ’04 Ad Fact Check
1) There is a crisis in health care, especially access to OB/GYNs, caused by frivolous lawsuits:
2) John Kerry and the liberals in Congress blocked medical malpractice reform.
Public Citizen does not take positions on candidates running for election. However, we have fought long and hard in Congress to oppose Bush’s initiatives to limit consumer access to our civil courts and believe his ad mischaracterizes what has happened on medical malpractice legislation in the U.S. Senate this Congress:
 Wyoming Legislative Service Office, “Issue Brief: Wyoming Medical Liability Insurance Company Summary,” June 2004.
ACOG News Release, “Medical Liability Survey Reaffirms More Ob-Gyns Are Quitting Obstetrics,” July 16, 2004. Available at: http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr07-16-04.cfm
 American Board of Medical Specialties, Annual Reports 1999-2004 and Reference Handbook.
 U.S. Census Bureau, Table ST-99-8 Population Estimates for the U.S., Regions, Divisions, and State by 5-year age groups and sex and 2003 update issued Sept. 30, 2004.
 Grumbach, et al, “Charges for Obstetric Liability Insurance and Discontinuation of Obstetric Practice in New York,” The Journal of Family Practice, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jan. 1997) at 61.
 Grumbach, et al, “Charges for Obstetric Liability Insurance and Discontinuation of Obstetric Practice in New York,” The Journal of Family Practice, Vol. 44, No. 1, Jan. 1997, at 61.
 Georgia Board for Physician Workforce, “Physician Workforce 2000 Report,” August 2001. Public Citizen was unable to attain similar data for Oregon.
 Fondren and Ricketts at 136.
 Medical Liability Monitor, 2003 rate survey, Vol. 28, No. 10, Oct. 2003
 United States General Accounting Office, “Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care,” GAO-03-836, August 2003. Available at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d03836.pdf
 GAO Study, p. 18.
 Joint Hearing before the Judiciary Committee and the Committee on Health, Education and Pensions, “On Examining the Status of Patient Access to Quality Health Care, Focusing on the Role of Medical Litigation and Malpractice Reform, Feb. 11, 2003. See Hatch comment on on p. 13 and Session comment on p. 56. Available here