Physician Lobbyists Revise Liability Reform Strategy
Physician lobbyists are redirecting their focus on medical malpractice legislation this year as they face a new Democratic Congress, which is unlikely to pass any bill that would cap noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits, The Hill reports.
Democratic lawmakers historically have supported trial lawyers and public interest groups that oppose limits on noneconomic damages. Democrats also say the court system is the only institution that can fairly moderate between private citizens and moneyed interests, according to The Hill. The Democratic majority "has forced [physician lobbyists] to adjust their strategies not only in dealing with Congress, but also in responding to their members and clients," The Hill reports.
Last year, the American Medical Association and other groups, such as the Health Coalition on Liability and Access, ran advertising campaigns supporting Republicans' malpractice bills in the home districts and states of key lawmakers. While federal tort reform efforts failed, "many of the proponents' aims were met" by state lawmakers and health insurers that "eliminate[d] some controversial practices," The Hill reports.
A physician lobbyist said that a growing number of states have begun to address medical malpractice issues and that those actions have been spurred by efforts at the federal level. Although there might be "some form of legislative activity" on medical malpractice insurance or lawsuits this year, AMA has indicated that it will place more focus on issues supported by Democrats, such as expanding health coverage to the uninsured and preventing a 10% reduction in Medicare payments to physicians, according to The Hill (Young, The Hill, 2/1).