Senator gets an earful

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, was working a tough crowd Monday afternoon when she addressed the concerns of about 100 doctors and nurses at Harrison Hospital.

It was standing-room-only for about half the crowd in the hospital’s small auditorium for the two-term senator who is up for re-election this fall. Topics ranged far and wide: health “safety nets” for the poor; Medicare problems; the nursing shortage; educating patients to give them a voice in political issues concerning health; malpractice insurance and tort reform; the battle with paperwork and bureaucracy; overworked health professionals, fatigue, and how this leads to mistakes, and increasing malpractice suits which raise premiums.

Murray said the problem with Medicare is low payments based on antiquated formulas.

“We’re the 45th state in the union in what we pay our doctors through Medicare.” There’s a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses in Washington as a result.

And “malpractice insurance premiums are untenable,” she said. “We cannot support these soaring premiums.” She supports legislation to give doctors a 10 percent tax break of their total insurance costs.

“We’ve got to cut down on frivolous law suits,” she added, suggesting a medical board be formed to judge whether a suit should go to trial. “The feds should underwrite some of the malpractice premiums the way they do floods and disasters.”

Murray told those present “I’m really proud of you working in a system that’s falling apart around you.”

Comments from the audience proved more declarative than questioning.

One doctor said he and his staff spent 20 minutes on paperwork for every hour devoted to patients.

“We need a rest from bureaucracy,” said several in the audience.

One doctor commented there’s been an increase to 22 percent of those with no insurance at all.

“They’ll still need to be seen,” he said. “The safety net will become the ER. We’ll be delivering babies in the ER before too long.”

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