Monday night kicked off MSSNY's annual Lobby Day, an opportunity for doctors and medical students to meet with their lawmakers and discuss issues important to them. Important to us. At the ever exotic Hampton Inn in Albany, Monday night's event featured a Q&A with Dept. of Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah and with a panel of state senators and assemblymen.
The two hours of discussion focused on Gov. Cuomo's Medicaid Redesign (MDR) plan, a multi-hit effort to reform managed care and medical liability in order to cut costs and improve patient care. If passed, the reforms would reach the NYS Medicaid population of about 5 million, which includes half of all children in NY and about a quarter of the adults. (In the words of Dr. Ettinger, WOW!)
Tort reform -- the whole liability issue -- was the lynch pin of the evening. Not a bad move, since NY has the highest medical malpractice insurance rates in the country. All the panelists seemed to favor the MDR reforms, at least theoretically, although not all believed the proposals would pass through the state legislature. Say they do pass: We'll get caps on moneys awarded in lawsuits and a stricter scope of what is considered malpractice -- "so physicians can practice without the fear of litigation."
The evening's moderator, MSSNY Speaker of the House Dr. Jerome Cohen, gave the organization's bottom line: MSSNY will support MDR only if liability reform proposals remain intact. He stressed that "liability reform equals Medicaid reform." Doctors can't improve quality of and access to care if they keep practicing such defensive medicine -- while worrying if they'll even get reimbursed for their efforts.