As a candidate for the State Senate in Montgomery County and parts of Bucks County, I am committed to advancing healthcare policies that protect the interests of doctors and patients. My respect and appreciation for medical professionals runs deep. My three sons and one daughter-in-law all are practicing physicians in Pennsylvania, as was my late husband of 35 years, Dr. Jeffrey Damsker. I have a strong understanding of issues affecting physicians and I will be an outspoken champion on behalf of the medical community.
One problem we will face over the next 10 years is the diminishing number of physicians in our Commonwealth; when I am elected State Senator I will call for a focused effort to keep doctors in Pennsylvania.
According to a study by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 41 percent of practicing doctors in Pennsylvania plan to retire in the next 10 years, and more than half of that 41 percent plan to retire in the next five years. Moreover, only 7.7 percent of doctors providing direct patient care in Pennsylvania are under the age of 34, while 48 percent of doctors engaged in direct patient care are 50 or older. Unless we take action—including loan forgiveness for Doctors who stay in Pennsylvania for at least 10 years—it is likely that we will face a severe shortage of physicians.
A major reason why so many doctors are leaving Pennsylvania is the fact that we have failed to protect doctors from runaway jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits. I will advocate sensible regulations that protect the interests of both doctor and patient. It is irresponsible for the State to raid the MCARE fund — Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (the former CAT Fund) – contributions made by physicians and hospitals to provide excess limits of coverage for healthcare providers. Depleting that fund puts additional pressure on malpractice insurers and the doctors who have to pay their premiums.
Medicare reimbursement levels are too low in PA. Although the Federal Healthcare reform legislation helped in some areas, I will work with our Congressional delegation to ensure that reimbursements are raised. I will focus on developing the capacity for cutting edge medical information. The Governor’s Office of Health Care Reform has received more than $17 million in federal Recovery Act funds to help develop health information “superhighway” to connect health care practitioners, patients, facilities and pharmacies through a secure network giving them the ability to have a complete record of a patient’s medical history. I will continue to fight for additional funding to ensure that the State of Pennsylvania stays at the forefront of using technology to improve accuracy and efficiency health care.
As always, I welcome the opportunity to interact with constituents and those professionals who would be impacted by the policies I support. Please feel free to reach me through my campaign website: www.voteruth.com. I look forward to working with you in the years to come.
Ruth Damsker, former Montgomery County Commissioner, is a candidate for Pennsylvania State Senate. Physicians News Digest welcomes views from all candidates.