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Pictured at the awards ceremony are (from left): Charles N. Hubbard, MD; BOC Chair Thomas C. Barber, MD; AAOS President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD; NYSSOS President A. Philip Fontanetta, MD; NYSSOS Executive Director Heather Bennett, JD; and NYSSOS members Jeffrey Lozman, MD; Daniel W. Green, MD; Timothy J. Clader, MD; and Michael L. Parks, MD.

AAOS Now

Published 7/1/2009
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Nick Piatek

AAOS honors New York State Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Award recognizes achievements in liability reform

The New York State Society of Orthopaedic Surgeons (NYSSOS) was awarded the 2009 State Orthopaedic Achievement Award for its success in raising awareness of the need for medical liability and tort reform. A. Philip Fontanetta, MD, society president, accepted the award, which was presented during the National Orthopaedic Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.

“NYSSOS is honored to receive this award from the AAOS,” said Dr. Fontanetta. “We are deeply appreciative to the members of our society who have participated in our campaigns throughout the year on issues such as medical liability reform. Their involvement has had a tremendous impact on our effectiveness as an organization.”

The award, which is given annually, honors a state orthopaedic society that has had a measurable impact in addressing problems facing their membership. It not only recognizes the creativity employed by the society in its approach to issues, but also honors the overall achievements of the society.

Creating a climate for reform
When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer appointed NYSSOS Board Member John M. Olsewski, MD, to his taskforce on medical liability reform, the Society had an opportunity to present a report on the impact of tort reform on orthopaedic surgeons. The NYSSOS also supported the efforts of the taskforce by purchasing targeted radio ads, lobbying legislators directly, and organizing rallies.

With the support of a $30,000 health policy grant from the AAOS and in conjunction with other medical organizations and societies, the NYSSOS helped bring about a bipartisan recognition that medical liability and tort reform are essential elements in an overall effort to improve patient access to quality care.

“The support we received from the AAOS was critical,” said Dr. Fontanetta. “It enabled the NYSSOS to develop materials that demonstrated the impact of the current medical liability system on orthopaedic surgeons. Our work with the taskforce, the state medical society, and other specialty societies enabled us to secure a freeze in medical liability premiums.”

Frozen premiums
In August 2008, Gov. David Patterson announced a freeze on medical liability premium rates through June 2009. The freeze not only averted a 3 percent increase in medical liability premiums requested by insurance companies, it also eliminated an 8 percent surcharge on base premiums for 2008–2009. For some orthopaedic surgeons in the state, the savings totaled more than $13,000.

With its increased presence on the legislative scene, its successful efforts to raise public awareness, and its efforts to educate lawmakers on the necessity for medical liability reform, the NYSSOS has greatly enhanced the possibility of long-term medical liability reform in New York.

Nick Piatek is communications specialist in the AAOS office of government relations. He can be reached at piatek@aaos.org