WMS Positions on Policy Issues
Access to Care for Wyoming's Patients
The continued shortage of physicians and other health care providers to care for Wyoming residents is of highest concern for the Wyoming Medical Society (WMS). The shortage of doctors and medical services, combined with the difficulty in recruiting and retaining new physicians to the state, is taking a higher and higher toll on patients' ability to find doctors to get the health care they need locally. Patients must wait longer and drive farther to access medical services. Wyoming Medical Society supports a broad package of legislation, each of which plays an important part in the effort to maintain and enhance our rural healthcare system.
Medical Liability Reform
WMS supports fair and reasonable reforms to our liability system that will continue to ensure that patients who have been injured through negligence are fairly compensated. WMS is a strong advocate for measures that will make our medical liability system more fair, predictable and timely for all involved, and ensure that patients can get the care they need in their local communities.
WMS strongly supports reasonable legal reform provisions that enhance the fairness and efficiency of the legal system in addressing just compensation for injured patients, which include:
- Unlimited compensation for economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc.), and reasonable limits on non-economic damages (pain and suffering, mental anguish, etc.)
- Expert witness qualifications to raise standards for doctors who serve as medical expert witnesses in legal actions, and require them to be accountable in ensuring their testimony is scientifically based, accurate and truthful. WMS supports high quality and ethical standards for doctors in the court room, in addition to the exam room.
- Special health courts: Restore fairness and reliability to the medical justice system by fostering alternatives to current medical tort litigation, including the creation of special health courts, that promote early disclosure of healthcare errors and provide prompt, fair, and reasonable compensation to patients who are injured by healthcare errors.
Patient Safety & Quality Improvement ~ WMS supports efforts to enhance patient safety through confidential reporting and correction of health care system errors, and evidence-based recommendations to enhance the quality of care for all patients.
Risk Retention Groups / Self-Insurance Pools ~ WMS does not support the use of state or private physician funds to create a new insurance mechanism with unlimited exposure in the current liability environment. Studies have shown that Wyoming premiums would be the same or higher, which does nothing to address the current patient access problems caused by the medical liability crisis. WMS believes that RRG’s or self-insurance pools could be viable alternatives after reasonable medical liability reforms are enacted.
Medicaid ~ WMS supports periodic funding increases for physician Medicaid reimbursement to ensure that Wyoming’s low-income and disabled patients will continue to have access to health care services provided by physicians in local communities. Reasonable reimbursement increases will help physicians cover the costs of providing care to Medicaid patients and lessen the impacts of cost-shifting to the private sector.
Physician Recruitment and Loan Repayment ~ The Legislature has made strong efforts to provide financial incentives to recruit and retain physicians to the state’s most underserved areas through the physician recruitment program and the loan repament program. WMS continues to strongly support these efforts to increase access to high quality care in Wyoming for patients.
WWAMI Medical Education Program ~ WMS strongly supports funding to maintain and expand this program to provide medical training for Wyoming students, who then return to the state to practice after completing their education. WWAMI provides an excellent opportunity to “grow our own” physicians and market the state’s practice opportunities to students from other states in the WWAMI region, which serves as an excellent recruitment tool.
UW Family Practice Residencies ~ WMS supports appropriate, full funding for these valuable programs in Cheyenne and Casper that train physicians in the state, provide quality health care services to Wyoming patients and ensure we have a supply of new doctors in our recruitment pipeline.
Scope of Practice
Teamwork ~ WMS supports responsible collaboration between physicians and other health care providers in a system that recognizes physicians as leaders of the health care team. There are wide variances in educational requirements for mid-level providers (psychologists, nurse anesthetists, chiropractors, lay midwives etc.) who receive training limited to a specific body system or condition.
Patient Safety ~ The highest quality health care for patients is provided by professionals who have appropriate clinical education and training to provide the services they perform. WMS adheres to the standard: Is it good medicine? WMS opposes expanding the scope of practice for midlevel health practitioners through legislation rather than through additional education and training because it compromises patient safety. WMS does not believe that expanding scope and lowering standards are appropriate means to increase patient access to health care.
High Standards for Mental Health ~ WMS opposes the change of current law to allow psychologists to write prescriptions because it places patients with complicated mental illnesses at risk. Psychologists do not have the medical training necessary to have a broad understanding of the physiological effects of prescription drugs in the human body. Conversely, psychiatrists are physicians who graduate from medical school and specialize in mental health and much more adept to provide such prescriptions safely.
Tobacco Prevention / Public Health & Safety
WMS supports the expansion of smoke-free environments to public places in order to reduce the risk of adverse health affects and illness from exposure to second-hand smoke.
WMS supports strengthening Wyoming’s seat belt law, tougher drinking and driving penalties, proper pandemic flu planning and other measures to protect and promote the health and well-being of Wyoming.
Contact information for the Wyoming Medical Society:
Sigsbee Duck, MD, President
Sheila Bush, Executive Director
P.O. Box 4009
Cheyenne, WY 82003