Republican Senators Voice Support for Medical Malpractice Liability Reforms
Senate Republican leaders yesterday voiced support for limits on medical malpractice liability, but they "acknowledged that passing such legislation in the Senate would be difficult," the Washington Times reports. According to Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a House bill (HR 4600) sponsored in the last congressional session by Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) and supported by President Bush could serve as a "starting point" for debate in the Senate this session, but it has little chance of passing (Fagan, Washington Times, 2/5). Greenwood's bill was approved in the House last session but never reached a vote in the Senate (Jakes Jordan, AP/Nando Times, 2/4). The bill would have capped noneconomic damages at $250,000 and limited punitive damages at two times the economic damage award or $250,000, whichever is greater. "We're going to have to be a little more creative," Santorum said, adding that the answer to rising malpractice premiums "is not as simplistic as just caps" on damages. He predicted that liability reform legislation would likely pass in the House first and then be addressed in the Senate in roughly the next six months (Washington Times, 2/5). Greenwood said he plans to introduce a new version of his bill in the House today (AP/Nando Times, 2/4).
Yesterday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Senate Judiciary Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) announced that they will hold a joint hearing on the issue (Rovner, CongressDaily, 2/4). Opponents of the liability limits, including many Democrats, trial attorneys and some consumer groups, argue that the caps would "deny innocent victims or their survivors what they deserve" in malpractice suits (AP/Nando Times, 2/4). Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that Bush's "response to the cost problem is to deny the most seriously injured patients the right to fair compensation, even though malpractice premiums represent less than 1% of overall health care costs" (Washington Times, 2/5).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.