Letter to the Editor

Your view: Check the facts

Monday, March 22, 2004

I have seen Michael Jensen's editorial of March 14. As I know the author personally and know him to be possessed of a sense of humor, I am assuming he intended the editorial to be funny. But still, even if it was intended to be a comedy, we should stay within arm's reach of the facts.

I noticed two things in particular. First, the editorial says, "Meanwhile, a medical malpractice bill is making its way through the Legislature that will restrict some of the massive punitive penalties handed down primarily by friendly St. Louis juries." I have checked into this and believe that there has not been a punitive damage verdict in a medical malpractice case in St. Louis city in over five years. If any such case at all can be found in the last five years, I would like to see the case name and number.

Second, the editorial states, "... physicians are leaving Missouri in droves because of exploding medical malpractice insurance premiums." The most recent statistics available show that we have 12 percent more physicians in Missouri in 2003 than we had in 2000. The anecdotal cases of physicians leaving can usually be accounted for by those doctors who go to states that have higher Medicaid reimbursement rates.

Missouri's reimbursement rates are lower than any contiguous state and lower than the national average.

Most states have organizations of insurance companies that are trying to limit the rights of patients for the benefit of insurers. All of those organizations claim doctors are leaving their states "in droves." I think we have finally identified a rural county in Idaho where all the doctors in the country are going.

I thought the editorial was funny but these facts should be appended.

Phillip J. Barkett Jr.