House Subcommittee Passes Malpractice Reform Bill To Limit Jury Awards
The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee yesterday approved a bill (HR 5) that would limit noneconomic damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits to $250,000, CongressDaily/AM reports. The legislation, introduced by Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) and supported by the Bush administration, would allow punitive awards of $250,000, or double the amount of economic damages, whichever is higher, if evidence shows that a health care provider had "malicious intent" or "deliberately failed to avoid unnecessary injury," according to CongressDaily/AM. Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Billy Tauzin (R-La.) said, "HR 5 ensures that injured patients are justly compensated without permitting ambulance-chasing attorneys to run doctors out of town." However, Democratic lawmakers, including Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), said the "real causes" of increasing medical malpractice insurance rates are "not known," and they called for more research into the subject, CongressDaily/AM reports. Subcommittee members voted along party lines to reject an amendment by Dingell that would have eliminated the $250,000 cap and established a medical advisory board to "evaluate the causes and scope" of high insurance premiums. Members also voted down an amendment by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) that would have deleted language that Pallone said would protect HMOs and pharmaceutical companies from liability in some cases (Rich, CongressDaily/AM, 3/5). The full Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up the bill in a hearing tomorrow morning (House Energy and Commerce Committee Web site, 3/5). The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill today (CongressDaily/AM, 3/5).
President Bush yesterday "made another pitch" for legislation to limit medical malpractice awards at $250,000 in a speech to members of the American Medical Association at a Washington, D.C., conference, CongressDaily reports (Rovner/Murray, CongressDaily, 3/4). In his speech, Bush cited the bill introduced by Greenwood in both the 107th and 108th sessions of Congress, praising the House for passing the legislation last session but criticizing the Senate for "fail[ing] to act" on it. Bush said the "national problem" of high malpractice insurance is rooted in "frivolous" lawsuits. "Doctors in hospitals are overusing certain tests and treatments as defensive measures to avoid litigation. All of this defensive medicine is rising costs for patients, for states, and for the federal government," Bush said, adding that "for the sake of the system, noneconomic damages should be capped at $250,000," with "reasonable" punitive damages in cases of "serious misconduct" (Bush speech text, 3/4).
CNN's "Crossfire" yesterday included a discussion of medical malpractice reform with former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader and American Medical Association President-Elect Dr. Donald Palmisano (Begala et al., "Crossfire," CNN, 3/4). A transcript of the program is available online. In addition, "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Bob Novak discussed the issue on CNN's "Inside Politics" (Woodruff, "Inside Politics," CNN, 3/4). A transcript of the program is available online.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.