GOP Plans To Push Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards in Next Legislative Session
The Washington Post on Dec. 29 examined congressional Republicans' plans for tort reform, including caps on awards in medical malpractice cases. According to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), in the next congressional session, Republicans will use a strategy of passing liability caps in "small pieces" for "serious problems like medical liability and outlandish class-action lawsuits." He said that such "piecemeal measures" will garner enough support from pro-business Democrats to pass the Senate and avoid the "unwinnable fight" over one "big tort reform bill," the Post reports. Republicans and President Bush already have had success in using such a strategy, including enacting liability limits for drug makers. In the next session, Republicans plan to advocate legislation proposed by President Bush that would "dramatically limit" the liability of doctors sued for medical malpractice, the Post reports. Under the plan, awards for pain and suffering in medical malpractice cases would be capped at $250,000; however, there would be no federal limits on economic damages. Republicans also are considering legislation that would provide new liability protections for asbestos manufacturers and HMOs, the Post reports (VandeHei, Washington Post, 12/29/02). In related news, the New York Times on Dec. 29 looked at the outcome of tort reform in Texas, most of which was enacted by Bush when he was governor (Oppel, New York Times, 12/29/02).
The malpractice crisis has led some patients to be denied medical treatment "because of an out-of-control tort system," a Wall Street Journal editorial states, adding, "Juries willing to award sky-high payouts to plaintiffs poison the well for patients everywhere." The editorial continues, "The House passes medical malpractice reform every two years, but it always dies in the Senate." It concludes, "This sounds like a job for" incoming Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) (Wall Street Journal, 1/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.