State's malpractice policy has new doctors running for the hills

Attention all states opting to go without medical malpractice caps: Don't be surprised if doctors don't want to practice within your borders. That's essentially the message being sent by graduating medical students in Illinois, if the results from the state's new physician workforce study are any indication. 

The study, conducted by Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, surveyed 561 new medical students on where they will practice following graduation, and their reasons for those decisions. Roughly half indicated that they were leaving Illinois to practice elsewhere, with medical malpractice liability playing a big part in that decision. 

Russell Robertson, MD, the study's lead author and a professor and chair of family and community medicine at the Feinberg School and family medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, called the state's malpractice environment "toxic." Said Robertson in a press release: "The Illinois Supreme Court's decision to lift the liability caps seems to send the message that the potential for litigation supersedes the need for residents of Illinois to get needed healthcare." 

That decision--made last February by the state's Supreme Court--drew the ire of the American Medical Association, and continues to leave many doctors trained in The Prairie State feeling like they have no choice but to pull up stakes to begin their careers. 

"It is no shock that Illinois is losing our new doctors," Steven Malkin, MD, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, said in the press release. "If a graduating resident sets up shop in any of our neighboring states, the liability premiums will be about a third to half of what he or she would pay in Illinois....Graduates feel it often doesn't make sense to stick around, unless they have a strong Illinois family connection." 

Furthermore, the study ascertains that as more and more doctors opt to leave the state, rural communities throughout Illinois will remain undersupplied, increasing the likelihood of a prolonged physician shortage. 

To learn more:
- read through the study
- here's the accompanying press release
- check out this Chicago Sun-Times article