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Washington, D.C. – The skyrocketing cost of medical liability insurance premiums is creating a healthcare access crisis across the nation, particularly impacting rural areas that are already facing shortages in physicians and other healthcare professionals, said U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

Enzi, a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is an original co-sponsor of a medical litigation reform bill to be introduced in the Senate by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

Enzi's comments follow.

"In dealing with medical liability reform our focus is not, and should not be, doctors versus trial lawyers versus insurance companies. Our focus is patients.

"This debate isn't just about lawsuits and insurance rates, it's about people who can't get the medical attention they need. It's about communities without doctors to serve them.

"A woman with a complicated pregnancy shouldn't have to drive an hour and a half to get specialized treatment because her community lost its only obstetrician; and a town shouldn't have nearly lost its only surgeon because the cost of medical liability insurance is more than could be afforded to hire a new one.

"These are real examples of problems many towns in Wyoming are facing. People's lives, especially in rural and frontier towns, are in danger because of the price we are all paying for a system that encourages frivolous lawsuits and unlimited damages. We need to put a stop to it.

"Our first step toward fixing this broken system should be to pass legislation to reform medical litigation. Next we should continue working toward comprehensive patient-safety legislation that replaces the status quo with a system that encourages the prompt disclosure of preventable medical errors.

"Until we replace the tort-system lottery with a system that promotes accountability and innovation instead of discouraging it, we're not going to raise the overall standard of care and the health of millions of Americans will remain in jeopardy."