Sherry L. Blumenthal, MD, immediate past section chair
This is my last report as Pennsylvania Section chair. To start, I would like to acknowledge the great work of our team—Kurt T. Barnhart, MD, section chair; Lynne M. Coslett-Charlton, MD, section vice chair; and Stephen J. Smith, MD, section treasurer—in making the last three years successful and rewarding. I would also like to thank Richard W. Henderson, MD, immediate past District III chair; Ann L. Honebrink, MD, District III vice chair; ACOG Fellow-at-Large Owen C. Montgomery, MD, past District III chair; and Charles A. Castle, MD, for their mentoring and lessons in political correctness. Thanks also to Christine Himes, District III manager, and Jan Reisinger, section executive director, for their valuable support.
Part I of the OBesity Project, which won the Council of District Chairs Service Recognition Award, is being presented around Pennsylvania, most recently at Reading Hospital and soon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Part II of the project focuses on strategies for management of the obese patient in ob-gyn. It premiered at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY, in November. I hope to add it to the list of District III ROUNDS project offerings.
Our legislative program is extremely busy now that the Legislature is back in session. We held a successful Legislative Day in Harrisburg on September 24, which included many residents and medical students from Pennsylvania. Dr. Coslett-Charlton, section legislative chair, is working closely with our lobbyists to push legislation written by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and our section to make standards for lawsuits involving emergency care adhere to a higher standard of proof.
Legislation regarding dense breast tissue notification passed the Pennsylvania Senate with no opposition from legislators. We have been educating legislators about flaws in this bill and negotiated an amendment to the wording to make it less alarming to patients. We were able to add that dense breasts affect more than 50% of women and that each woman should discuss any further management with her personal physician. We expect the bill to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Tom Corbett.
Senate Bill 379, which prevents apologies by physicians from being included as evidence in liability cases, passed the House and Senate and was approved by Gov. Corbett. There has been an overall decrease in the amount of medical liability filings and the number of non-jury and jury verdicts in Pennsylvania. Case filings are down 44.8% from 2002, when reforms were introduced.
We were unsuccessful in stopping legislation to bar health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from covering abortion services. Another bill, allowing companies to avoid paying for contraception due to their conscience has been introduced in committee by the same legislators, but it has not moved yet. We are readying to fight this bill as well. There have been various lawsuits around the country regarding this issue. We hope that courts continue to rule against these exceptions to the ACA contraception mandate.
Gov. Corbett, who has steadfastly refused to expand Medicaid or set up insurance exchanges in Pennsylvania, has now come up with a plan for Medicaid expansion. Details are hazy, but he would like all Medicaid recipients to pay a part of the cost for their care. We are waiting on more information.
For the next four years, I will have the honor of occupying the obstetric seat on the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) Board of Trustees, a position recently held by Dr. Castle. Our section is determined to keep women’s health care visible on the PAMED agenda. Dr. Barnhart is our representative to the PAMED Specialty Leadership Council, and John P. Gallagher, MD, one of our Section Advisory Council members, hopes to be elected as the PAMED district representative for Western Pennsylvania. Enrique Hernandez, MD, also a member of our Section Advisory Council, is the PAMED district representative for Philadelphia. I will also continue as the ACOG liaison on the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia Advisory Council.
I have greatly enjoyed and benefitted from being part of the District III Advisory Council and hope I can continue to contribute to ACOG in the future. I will continue to pursue my passion for health care rights for our patients.