Doctors: 2011 session was successful

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After years of complaining that Florida just isn? a friendly place for their profession, doctors say the legislative session that just ended was one of the best they?e had in a long time, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

The doctors?lobby was a big winner on what it saw as a major medical malpractice bill, one that will make it less likely that plaintiffs will bring in out-of-state doctors as expert witnesses.

Physicians have fought to try to ease their medical malpractice burden for years. While they won limits on what plaintiffs can win in a near-summer-long series of special sessions on malpractice in 2003, the profession has continued to say that the state isn? welcoming. They say they still have high medical malpractice premiums because there continue to be heavy losses here.

While doctors say the expert witness legislation was their big win this year, they also were the winners in an annual industry fight over other professionals seeking the legal ability to do things traditionally only doctors have been allowed to do.

For example, ophthalmologists beat back an effort by optometrists to be able to prescribe oral medications, instead of just topical medicines. In another of these ?cope of practice?fights, advanced registered nurse practitioners again tried to persuade lawmakers to let them prescribe medicine, saying it would save the state money. While doctors won that fight too, it would have been much bigger news if they hadn? ?the nurse practitioners have tried to get prescribing rights for 15 years and lost every year.

Doctors also won additional money for new residency slots ?something they?e long complained has hurt the state? efforts to keep new doctors from leaving.

But the most high profile fight the doctors were involved in this year was probably over how much information they can collect from patients about gun ownership and what they should say to patients about guns.

Doctors were squared off against the National Rifle Association and other gun rights backers, who say physicians, particularly pediatricians, have been too aggressive in questioning patients about gun ownership. While the NRA initially sought to prevent doctors from having any conversations with patients about their guns ?something the Florida Medical Association opposed ?the two groups eventually compromised.

The FMA took credit for softening the bill, under which doctors are generally still allowed to question patients about guns when there? a medical reason to believe the question is warranted.

?he FMA

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.