Senate hearing: Liability issues driving doctors from long-term care

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Rising medical liability insurance costs for doctors in nursing homes are forcing them to leave long-term care and Congress needs to find a solution, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Larry Craig (R-ID) said Thursday at a special hearing.

"While I am not proposing legislation yet, I believe we in Congress need to explore solutions to this growing problem," said Craig. 

Craig said the cost of claims for the last three years is estimated at more than $2 billion and the average medical insurance premium cost is more than 200% higher than in 2001.

"Every dollar spent on defense attorneys and legal settlements is a dollar directed away from staffing needs, therapies and programs that make qualitative differences not just in care quality, but in seniors' quality of life itself," said Norman Estes, chief executive of NHS Management who oversees 39 facilities in the South, represented the American Health Care Association.

David Stevenson, an assistant professor in the Department of Health Care Policy at the Harvard Medical School, suggested either enacting national tort reform or redoubling efforts to improve quality, a more theoretical solution.