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Beware predatory lawyers

| Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Trib recently published a full-page ad from a Florida-based law firm targeting a local nursing home. Virtually identical ads, purchased by the same attorneys, are popping up in newspapers across the state.

It is important that readers understand that these ads have nothing to do with the quality of care in their communities' skilled-nursing facilities. The men and women who work in these centers strive every day to provide the best possible care to residents who are frail, elderly or recuperating from a recent hospitalization, and they deserve praise — not condemnation.

These ads are only about making money. Pennsylvania's lax tort laws make it easy for predatory lawyers to move here and file volumes of lawsuits against Pennsylvania health-care providers, hoping for quick cash settlements — and that's exactly what they are doing.

Although sixth in population, Pennsylvania ranked second nationally both in total medical malpractice payments and payouts per capita in 2011, with 95 percent of $320 million in payments made because of settlements, not judgments, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Practitioners Data Bank.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association is advocating with state legislators for commonsense legal reforms that would end predatory legal tactics and lower health-care costs for all Pennsylvanians. But until these measures become law, the best way to determine whether a skilled-nursing center is the right place for a loved one is to visit it, observe the care and talk to patients, families and staff. The doors at your community's skilled-nursing centers are always open, and seeing really is believing.

Stuart H. Shapiro

Harrisburg

The writer, a physician, is president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (phca.org).

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