In June the American Hospital Association released a troubling survey of hospitals and health care organizations around the country. Fully 20 percent of the institutions surveyed had cut back on services and 6 percent had eliminated some units outright as a response to the increasing cost of medical malpractice insurance.
The malpractice issue has especially hit obstetrics wards and obstetricians hard. Obstetrics is a marginal money maker at best, and the incredibly high cost of insurance is leading some hospitals to curtail or outright close their obstetrics units.
The New York Times report on the survey notes that at least 6 hospitals around the country closed their obstetrics wards this summer. Some rural clinics have gone out of business altogether.
How expensive is medical malpractice insurance? According to The Times, the worst places for obstetricians is currently Florida. In Fort Lauderdale and Miami, the cost of insurance for obstetricians run as high as $200,000 per year.
Hospitals now pay massive bills for medical malpractice insurance. Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University Hospital was hit with a $32 million bill this year for its insurance. It responded by closing the maternity unit at a South Philadelphia hospital it operates.
And what is truly shocking is that most of the larger feminist organizations are silent on the topic. The National Organization for Women, for example, spends a lot of time and money defending abortion providers, but has done nothing to highlight the problems faced by obstetricians from medical malpractice lawsuits.
In fact, the only time the issue of malpractice insurance reform is mentioned on NOW’s web site is to ridicule a statement by George W. Bush’s about his medical malpractice reform efforts while he was governor of Texas.
It’s a shame that NOW and other feminist organizations can’t make women’s access to obstetricians as high a priority as women’s access to abortion providers.
Rise in insurance forces hospitals to shutter wards. Joseph B. Treaster, The New York Times, August 25, 2002.
Bushisms. National Organization for Women, Accessed: September 10, 2002.