Malpractice Reform a Dead Issue in Congress This Year
President Bush has renewed his call for nationwide tort reform, but federal legislation addressing medical malpractice lawsuits is unlikely to pass while Democrats hold the majority in Congress, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Bush in Illinois last week said, "I'm worried about frivolous lawsuits that are running up the cost of health care." He added that "when somebody gets sued all the time, they practice more medicine than is necessary and it runs up your costs."
A day later in New York, he said that "excessive lawsuits will make it hard for America to remain the economic leader that we want to be." In addition, during his State of the Union address last month, Bush asked Congress to pass legislation that would limit noneconomic damages awarded in medical malpractice cases.
However, Bush's legal agenda "is likely to be ignored" in the new Democratic-led Congress, according to the Tribune. Democrats generally oppose efforts to restrict the types of lawsuits people can file and the amounts they can recover.
Tracy Schmaler, a spokesperson for Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said, "Proposals such as arbitrary caps on medical malpractice claims do little to protect true victims while limiting Americans' legal rights and access to justice." Federal efforts over the last two years to limit damages in medical malpractice lawsuits "have not received much support," according to the Tribune.
Tort reform supporters say the Bush administration will continue to pursue its agenda by exerting influence at the state level and in courtrooms nationwide. Bush also is "trying to shape the debate for the 2008 election," the Tribune reports (Sachdev, Chicago Tribune, 2/8).