After a brief lull, Senate moves to act on medical malpractice

Associated Press
Friday, January 24, 2003

As it has for workers' compensation, the Senate Judiciary Committee is crunching the numbers for medical malpractice with plans to take up the issue next week.

Chairman Jeffrey Kessler has asked financial analysts to calculate the amount of money needed to start a doctor-run malpractice insurance program.

Malpractice victims and the lawyers who represent them made repeated appearances at the Capitol during the week. They say the caps and limits protect bad doctors and won't lower insurance rates.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Justice and Democracy stopped in on Friday as part of a bus tour meant to raise awareness about malpractice.

On Thursday, the president of Public Citizen, another national group, spoke in the Capitol rotunda and also addressed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Joan Claybrook cited a study of insurance rates that links high premiums to the economic cycle, rather than lawsuits.

"They're not geared to the tort system at all," she said.
Claybrook said malpractice data collected by the federal government suggests that less than 5 percent of the nation's doctors are responsible for half the money awarded by juries and in malpractice settlements.

"It's really stunning that such a small number of doctors cause so much of the problem," Claybrook said.

Several of the lobbying malpractice victims and their allies said that lawmakers paid them little heed.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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