The Malpractice Crisis in America: Tort Reform vs. Asset Protection
Just follow the headlines. Malpractice insurance and the medical profession are in trouble, again. Rates are skyrocketing and physicians are rapidly dropping out of specialty practices. Richard Corlin, MD, from Santa Monica, Calif., and past president of the American Medical Association has gone on record as saying that a dozen states -- Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia have already reached the breaking point. Thirty others are getting there quickly.
That it has reached a national pitch is without question. On July 25, 2002 President Bush speaking in North Carolina, called for federal tort reform legislation that would mirror what was done in California over three decades ago, placing caps on jury awards. Depending on which side of the issue you take, it was either fortunate or unfortunate that less than a week later the Senate voted 57-42 to kill an amendment that would have capped lawsuit awards and limited lawyer contingency fees.
Recent headlines out of Nevada provide further evidence that lawmakers at the state level are struggling to deal with the crisis. During a recently concluded special session where the tort reform war was waged, the legislature passed a $350,000 cap on pain and suffering awards.
Doctors in the state are hailing the decision as if it were going to save the medical profession. Insurers have been quoted as saying that it is a positive change, if it can withstand the court challenges that are sure to come. Trial lawyers have bemoaned the change and see it as special interests getting the better end of the deal at the expense of victims and their families.
Tort reform has always been the primary argument pressed forward whenever discussion about what to do with the malpractice insurance problem has been brought up. In fact, the AMA has declared federal tort reform as it's number one legislative priority for this next year.
But tort reform doesn't always work. Group members of Physician Insurers Association of America have pointed out that in many states the courts have ruled tort reform measures as unconstitutional. Tort nullification has taken place in Idaho, Illinois, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington.
Even in states where tort reform has been upheld, doctors have still been held liable for judgements exceeding the caps imposed. Courts in Alabama, Colorado, and Texas have all upheld awards for amounts that exceeded the states' statutory limitations. As Sarah Lawhorn, president of a malpractice insurer has stated, "Some jurors freely admit that they'll overlook whether the doctor violated the standard of care if they feel sorry for the plaintiff."
So, the question looms large in the minds of many practicing physicians, "When will relief finally come and what do I do until then?"
Taking an entirely different approach to the same crisis and providing an answer to this nagging question is the National Medical Foundation for Asset Protection. They provide education and training to physicians and dentists on total asset and medical malpractice protection. By sponsoring America's top authorities on malpractice protection and prevention, the Foundation will present to over 100 medical and dental organizations in 2003.
"We have been sponsoring speakers to present to medical and dental organizations for over 15 years," said Cameron Taylor, executive director for the Foundation. "Our goal is to help physicians and dentists stay in practice, teaching them ways to protect their personal assets as well as structure their practices in a way so as to preserve their ability to keep doing what they do best taking care of patients."
The Foundation, located in Provo, UT, was started by Jay W. Mitton, MBA, JD. Nationally known as "The Father of Asset Protection," Mitton is the best selling author of the book Cover Your Assets: Lawsuit Protection. He started the Foundation to help achieve his life mission of educating the world on lawsuit and asset protection.
The speakers, who are sponsored by the Foundation at no cost to the medical and dental professional organizations, speak on a wide range of topics. They address how to protect your practice, assets, and property in the event of a judgment in excess of your malpractice insurance. Strategies are presented on how to protect IRA and pensions from judgments, seizures, and creditors as well as how to maintain the focus of your medical practice on improved patient care rather than malpractice defense.
Proven alternatives to costly malpractice insurance are presented as well as the advantages and disadvantages of "C" and "S" corporations. Legal steps that can be done in minutes to ensure 100% asset protection are offered as well as a myriad of other strategies.
Are such strategies and measures useful in the face of the crisis facing the medical profession now? A Chicago, IL based attorney who attended a Foundation-sponsored presentation believes so. "As the representative of three to four hundred doctors we have concluded that this seminar is a must for the asset protection of each and every doctor practicing in the United States today."
Members of the Massachusetts Medical Society think so. At their annual meeting in 2002 emphasis was placed on the importance of becoming more educated about the importance of using the right asset planning and protection strategies.
The malpractice insurance crisis is real. Doctors are leaving the profession. Tort reform is needed. But, it may come to late or not at all for many who will face litigation challenges in the meantime. Asset protection strategies and practices can and do work to minimize lawsuit damages. The National Medical Foundation for Asset Protection is available to educate and provide answers on how to do it.
To contact the National Medical Foundation for Asset Protection, visit them online at www.nationalmedicalfoundation.org or call them at 1-800-375-2453.
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