Question 3: Medical Malpractice Caps - 8 News NOW

Alyson McCarthy, Reporter

Question 3: Medical Malpractice Caps

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(Oct. 20) -- Is Nevada really losing hundreds of doctors each year because of skyrocketing premiums for malpractice insurance? That's the claim in one television ad now running that supports Question 3.

Question 3 proposes a $350,000 cap on malpractice awards for what's generally known as pain and suffering -- with no exceptions. A television ad supporting Question 3 shows a long line of doctors walking past the state line and it claims Nevada is losing six physicians a week due to skyrocketing malpractice premiums. That's called a spin.

The ad paid for by the group Keep Our Doctors in Nevada claims our state is losing six physicians a week due to skyrocketing premiums for malpractice insurance. The group cites the Clark County Medical Society, which cites the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners as its source.

But that same government agency, which licenses doctors in Nevada, tells Eyewitness News it has licensed more physicians so far this year than in the previous three years and describes the ad as misleading.

Even if you compare the ratio of doctors to residents, that's increased as well from 149 doctors per 100,000 Nevada residents in 1992 to an estimated 203 doctors per 100,000 Nevada residents just last year.

But what the numbers don't reflect is just how many of these licensed doctors are actually practicing in Nevada. Now according to local doctors, that claim is not an exaggeration, especially in high-risk specialties.

Las Vegas obstetrician Susan Boyd says her medical malpractice premiums tripled in two years to $120,000 a year. "Every month there's fewer and fewer OB/GYN's just because they can't afford to stay in practice," said Dr. Boyd.

But again, according to the numbers from the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners, Clark County has more licensed OB/GYN's now than it did three years ago. The question is how many have stopped the high-risk end of their practice, which is delivering babies?

According to a survey in 2003 by the American College of Obstetricians, Nevada has the highest percentage of doctors -- nearly 20-percent -- that stopped practicing obstetrics.

So how does Nevada compare to the rest of the country? Unfortunately, Nevada ranked 48th out of 50 states last year for doctor to population ratios. That's also according to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners, which says numbers aside; Nevada is not gaining doctors quickly enough to keep up with the health care needs of its population.

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