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A Letter to the Members of Associated Industries Florida From the Honorable Toni Jennings, Lt. Governor, State of Florida

July 7, 2003

As an employer and member of Associated Industries of Florida, you know that soaring medical liability insurance premiums affect more than healthcare providers and their patients. These rising costs also impact Florida employers and their employees, since as the cost of health care increases, so do health insurance premiums. These costs erode the ability of employers in our state to provide coverage for workers. As president of Jack Jennings & Sons, Inc., General Contractors, for 20 years, I have seen first hand how this issue can negatively affect employers and our state’s economy.

According to the American Association of Health Plans, every five percent increase in health insurance premiums costs Floridians 19,830 jobs. We have worked hard to build a robust economy, emerging as a national model for economic growth in challenging economic times. Governor Bush and I ask that you continue to work with us to address this latest threat to Florida’s prosperity.

Our proposed solution includes 60 recommendations made by an academic task force, based on a thorough review of the current situation and input from hundreds of Floridians across the state. This plan will improve quality of care, increase physician discipline, tighten oversight of insurers and reform our litigation system, including a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases. It will create the stability required to stop dramatic premium increases that are driving doctors out of practice today and may drive employees out of work tomorrow. This comprehensive reform package will resolve the medical malpractice insurance crisis in our state.

Every day brings this issue closer to our own lives as healthcare options disappear. In Orlando, my hometown, people are already at risk. On Monday, the Orlando Sentinel published a story highlighting the growing crisis, through the eyes of Christine Mills, a local woman whose wait for a basic screening procedure put her life at risk, and underscores just how high the stakes are already Ms. Mills is not alone, and Orlando is not unique. I have personally heard similar stories from every corner of our state. We cannot delay meaningful reform any longer. (Click here to read Ms. Mills’s story)

You and other business leaders will be critically important to our efforts to pass legislation that fixes this problem. As legislators hear the personal experiences of their constituents, they realize this issue reaches beyond doctors and their insurers to affect all Floridians. The majority of the members of the House of Representatives favors our comprehensive proposal and will likely pass a bill incorporating key elements of our plan before the end of the week. However, the Senate appears less supportive of comprehensive reform. I urge you to contact your senator directly and immediately and express your support for genuine reform.

With your help, we can pass meaningful reform that will lower the overall cost of health insurance. Together, we will make sure our families and employees always have access to quality medical care.

Very truly yours,

Toni Jennings
Lt. Governor