Senate To Consider Malpractice, Health Plan Legislation
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday outlined his agenda for the next two months and said the Senate in May during "Health Week" would consider medical liability legislation and a bill (S 1955) that would allow small businesses to form association health plans, CongressDaily reports.
The medical liability bill would cap total noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $750,000 and would cap such damages at $250,000 per defendant. According to CongressDaily, previous bills that "have gone nowhere in the Senate" would have capped total noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $250,000 (Wodele, CongressDaily, 4/5).
Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said that the latest bill was modeled after a Texas law and that Congress should pass the legislation because malpractice insurance costs have forced a number of physicians out of business. Ensign added, "We're pretty pessimistic about being able to pass it" because of expected opposition from Democrats.
Laura Capps, a spokesperson for Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), said, "We would definitely still oppose it," adding, "It's still a terrible bill overall" (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 4/5).
The Senate during "Health Week" also will consider the AHP bill, which the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved last month, CongressDaily reports. Democrats, consumer advocates and state insurance commissioners oppose the legislation (CongressDaily, 4/5).
Senate HELP Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), who sponsored the bill, said that he hopes to reach an agreement with Democrats on the legislation. Ensign said that Democrats who hope to reduce health care costs "will join with us to pass some of this legislation" (CQ HealthBeat, 4/5).
A spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the medical liability and AHP bills "won't do anything to provide decent affordable health care to the American people" (CongressDaily, 4/5).