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(5/12/2004) Wohlgemuth, Physicians, and Patients disappointed with Edwards vote

May 12, 2004
For Immediate Release:
For Information Contact:
Todd Smith (512) 658-9699
Gina Hollenbeck (979) 224-2951

Republican Nominee say’s Edwards should start voting on behalf of constituents rather than trial lawyers

Burleson, Texas—Today, State Representative Arlene Wohlgemuth, the Republican Nominee in Congressional District 17, joined area physicians and patients in expressing disappointment with incumbent Democrat Congressman Chet Edwards vote against medical malpractice liability reform. Wohlgemuth said that today, the United States House of Representative considered HR 4280, which would increase patient access to health care services by reducing the excessive burden placed on health care delivery by the current medical liability system.

“Edwards voted HR 4280, and by doing so, voted against the interests of physicians and their patients,” Wohlgemuth said. “With his no vote today, Congressman Edwards continues his established pattern of opposing measures to limit tort liability for doctors and other health care providers,” she added.

“Chet Edwards has consistently voted against physicians and their patients and today’s vote is no exception,” said Wohlgemuth. “His record is pro-trial lawyer and anti-healthcare and he should start voting on behalf of the constituents he was elected to represent instead of the personal injury trial lawyers who fund his reelection campaign,” Wohlgemuth added.

Wohlgemuth said that during the last state legislative session, she helped lead the fight in the Texas legislature to pass common sense reforms that keep doctors out of the court room and in their clinics practicing medicine. She said that those same reforms are needed at the federal level. Representative Wohlgemuth said there is no issue that better contrasts Edwards’ record and her own.

Wohlgemuth said that H.R. 4280 would have made changes to the health care liability system, including provisions concerning compensation for injured patients and other issues arising out of health care lawsuits. Specifically, the bill would establish a cap on attorney contingency fees and a sunset period on malpractice suits, as well as set forth requirements and permissible recovery amounts for compensating patient injury. In addition, the legislation prohibits the award of punitive damages for products that comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.

Brazos County physician Ronald M. Rust also expressed disappointment with Edwards’ vote. “Doctors in some areas are being forced to close offices, and as a result, their patients are going without care,” said Dr. Rust. “Chet Edwards’ vote today shows a callous disregard for the interests of physicians and their patients,” Dr. Rust added.

Patients, such as expectant mother, Susan Quilitzsch of Hillsboro, who live in rural areas echo Dr. Rust’s concerns about declining availability of medical services. “The medical services provided by obstetricians and gynecologists help to ensure that expectant mothers and their babies make it through their pregnancy safely,” Quilitzsch said. “I am deeply concerned that access to those services may be curtailed because Doctors cannot afford malpractice insurance,” she concluded.

“The real tragedy is that physician’s ability to objectively evaluate and treat their patients has been compromised by selfish trial lawyers who have little or no regard for the damage to healthcare their actions cause,” said Dr. Bill Trotter, a Bosque County physician who has stopped practicing medicine because of the health care lawsuit crisis. “While Congressman Edwards’ vote today is no surprise, it further demonstrates his lack of regard for the health care professionals he claims to represent,” Dr. Trotter added.

Representative Wohlgemuth said at issue is not only access to primary care but specialty care services such as obstetrician/gynecological, emergency room care, and others.

“Nationwide, health care providers specializing in obstetrics and gynecology pay over $100,000 per year on average in medical malpractice insurance costs,” Wohlgemuth said. “Internists, who pay in excess of $140,000 per year, have also been hit hard by the rising cost of malpractice insurance. The rising cost of malpractice insurance has burdened medical professionals nationwide, and is prohibitive to the provision of high quality health care at a reasonable cost to patients. Passage of measures such as H.R. 4280, which provide relief from excessive malpractice premiums, will help secure future access to medical services, and enable our nation’s medical professionals to better care for our families,” she concluded.
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