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Senator Santorum Holds Town Hall Meeting with Doctors, Nurses and Administrators at Reading Hospital and Medical Center

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Location: West Reading, PA


Senator Santorum Holds Town Hall Meeting with Doctors, Nurses and Administrators at Reading Hospital and Medical Center

U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and Select Committee on Aging, today was in West Reading at the Reading Hospital and Medical Center to offer a federal legislative update and talk about issues important to the medical and health care community. Senator Santorum focused on the medical liability crisis that Pennsylvania is currently facing. The Pennsylvania Medical Society recently released its 2005 "State of Medicine in Pennsylvania" Report that indicates that Pennsylvania's healthcare system is stressed and access is questionable.

"We have a serious health care problem in Pennsylvania. The medial liability crisis is forcing physicians to leave Pennsylvania at a faster rate than we can replace them. More and more we are becoming inadequate at meeting the health care needs of our population," said Senator Santorum.

In just six years from 1998 to 2004 the number of permanent full-time equivalent physicians has fallen from 36,500 to 32,000. This decline is largely due to the rising cost of medical liability insurance. Pennsylvania has one of the highest liability payouts per physician, at $16,000, compared to the national average of $5,000. It is estimated that by 2010, Pennsylvania could face a shortfall of nearly 10,000 physicians based upon current trends related to supply and demand.

"Pennsylvania's state constitution prohibits a cap on liability damages, which is why this issue needs to be addressed at the federal level. By placing a federal cap on non-economic damages, we can curb the trend and begin to retain doctors in Pennsylvania. When the cost of liability insurance premiums goes down, patient access, quality health care, and affordability goes up," said Senator Santorum.

Ob/Gyn providers have been among the hardest hit with skyrocketing medical liability insurance costs. According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Medical Colleges, only 28 percent of Ob/Gyn residents trained in Pennsylvania planned to stay and practice in Pennsylvania once they completed their residencies. Nine central Philadelphia maternity wards have closed their doors over the past eight years, resulting in a loss of 44,000 bed days per year. A recent survey of Pennsylvania members of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that 12.5 percent of them had stopped practicing obstetrics.

"As I travel throughout the Commonwealth, particularly southeastern Pennsylvania, I can't tell you the number of times I hear stories about women having trouble getting an appointment with an Ob/Gyn. As a result, women are being forced to drive hours for a critical appointment or to deliver their babies," said Senator Santorum.

The first week in May has been designated as Health Week in the United State Senate. Senator Santorum plans to introduce legislation that will be considered during Health Week to ensure that women and babies have the access to care they need. The bill, S. 23 -- the Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Access to Care Act would cap the amount of non-economic damages, based on the model of medical liability reform in Texas that has reduced medical liability costs for providers and increased access to medical care for patients. This step will ease the medical liability crisis on Ob/Gyn doctors and the women and newborns they serve. The bill will not limit recovery of any economic damages.

Another health care priority of Senator Santorum's is the issue of long-term care. Last year, Senator Santorum traveled throughout the Commonwealth listening to the concerns and suggestions of his fellow Pennsylvanians as he worked to develop long-term care legislation. The Senator met with Pennsylvanians who are providing care for their family members, long-term care providers, nursing home administrators, doctors, nurses, and Area Agencies on Aging administrators.

After listening to Pennsylvanians, he introduced federal legislation to encourage care giving and long-term care planning for Pennsylvanians, the Aging with Respect and Dignity Act (S. 2281). If passed by Congress S.2281, would assist caregivers who are providing for their loved-ones. Also, S.2281 encourages financial planning so more Pennsylvanians have options in choosing the best possible long-term care that matches their needs.

"Most Americans are not planning for, and are not prepared for, the financial impact of long-term care for themselves and their loved-ones. Individuals in need of long-term care - seniors and those with illness and disabilities - should have the opportunity to age with respect and dignity - receiving services of their choice, in the setting of their choice," said Senator Santorum. "If more middle-class Americans plan and save for their long-term care needs, an added benefit will be that the significant financial pressures will be lessened on safety-net programs such as Medicaid - helping us preserve and strengthen these programs for those in need."

Pennsylvania has one of the largest senior populations in the nation, and the number of Pennsylvanians age 85 and older is projected to increase by thirty-eight percent between 2000 and 2015. Long-term care can range from basic help with chores and activities in the home, assistance with activities of daily living in an assisted living facility, or highly skilled care in a nursing facility.

http://santorum.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.View&ContentRecord_id=1755&Region_id=0&Issue_id=0

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