Bush Proposal To Cap Medical Malpractice Damages Could Pass in 2005
Supporters of President Bush maintain that with an expanded Republican majority in the Senate, "there could be enough momentum to overcome Democratic-led resistance" to his medical liability reform proposal in 2005, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. According to the AP/Sun, a proposal to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits served as a "staple" of the Bush re-election campaign and was the first health-related issue that the president discussed in his post-election news conference.
Bush said on Nov. 4, "We must confront the frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care and hurting doctors and patients." Republicans and other supporters of the proposal maintain that high damage awards in malpractice lawsuits have led to increased malpractice insurance premiums and have prompted physicians to practice defensive medicine, both of which can lead to higher health care costs. Analysts from the Lewin Group estimate that the Bush proposal would save $37 billion in health care costs over 10 years.
The nation spends more than $1.5 trillion a year on health care. Costs are growing much faster than the overall economy and the number of uninsured has increased by five million people to 45 million in the past four years. Karen Ignagni, CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, said that malpractice lawsuits can increase health care costs by as much as $100 billion annually when factors such as defensive medicine are included. "Then there's a whole issue of safety and quality. Providers are afraid to talk about things that go wrong because they're afraid of being sued," she said. However, some studies have found limited or no evidence that a cap on damage awards in malpractice lawsuits would reduce health care costs, the AP/Sun reports (Sherman, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/15).