President Bush Calls for Caps on Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
In his weekly radio address, President Bush on Saturday "renewed his campaign" for Congress to limit awards in medical malpractice cases, the AP/Bergen Record reports. Bush said that malpractice lawsuits are causing premiums for malpractice insurance to "soa[r]" and are thus creating shortages of doctors in many areas, the AP/Record reports. "I have proposed reasonable limits on the lawsuits that are raising health care costs for everyone," he said. While Bush has been pushing for medical malpractice reform for more than a year, he has recently tied the issue to more comprehensive changes to the U.S. legal system, according to the AP/Record. "We need to address the broader problems of frivolous litigation. We need effective legal reforms that will make sure that settlement money from class actions and other litigation goes to those harmed and not to trial lawyers," he said. Bush supports pending Republican-backed legislation that would "sharply curtail" attorneys' contingency fees for lawsuit awards higher than $100 million, the AP/Record reports (AP/Bergen Record, 9/21).
Republicans will soon introduce a "flurry" of bills aiming to reform the legal system, with the hope that the medical malpractice issue "will finally become a potent political weapon," the Chicago Tribune reports. Republican aides said a bill that is more limited than the one (S 11) the Senate blocked this summer will be introduced by the end of September (Crawford Greenburg, Chicago Tribune, 9/19). In July, Senate Democrats blocked a Republican-backed, House-passed bill that would have capped noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 (California Healthline, 7/10). Other Republican-supported bills that would limit jury awards are pending in the Senate, including a measure that would require all class-action suits be heard in federal court and a measure that would create a fund for those sickened by asbestos. By introducing a variety of malpractice bills, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is ensuring that Republicans "will prevail or that Republicans can later accuse Democrats of blocking reform" efforts, the Tribune reports (Chicago Tribune, 9/19).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.