A recent poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) shows that emergency doctors are seriously concerned about being sued. More than half of the 1,768 physicians surveyed said that such concerns drive them to order more tests, and 44 percent said that fear of lawsuits is the biggest challenge to reducing emergency department costs. Even the President of ACEP, Sandra Schneider, MD., has said, “Medical liability reform is essential to meaningful healthcare reform. Without it, healthcare costs will continue to rise.”

What’s more fascinating is that these concerns have not been alleviated by last year’s passage of the health care reform. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said the law has not made specialists more willing to treat emergency patients. And while there are bills moving through the House of Representatives dealing with tort reform, they must overcome stiff opposition.

To me, question 12 of the survey is the biggest eye opener. The question asked, what is the reason you conduct the number of tests you do? More than 50 percent stated it was due to fear of lawsuits.

This year President Obama once again talked about medical malpractice reform in the State of the Union. He stated, “I am willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one the Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.” CALA has repeatedly stated that to have legitimate health care reform you need to deal with the issue of litigation and defensive medicine.

This survey by ACEP only confirms the need. When are policy makers going to put special interests aside and start listening to the people who day in and day out deal with these issues? Our country and this state are seeing healthcare costs accelerate at warp speed. Now is the time to deal with liability reform at the national and state levels. It is always good to listen to your doctor’s advice, right?