Bush seeks to cap awards in medical liability suits

Friday, July 26, 2002

President George W. Bush proposed capping jury awards and settlements in malpractice cases as a way of shielding health care insurers from costly lawsuits that he says limit access to doctors.

''What we want is quality health care, not rich trial lawyers,'' Bush said in a speech at High Point University. ''Health-care costs are up because docs are worried about getting sued and therefore oftentimes prescribe unnecessary treatments.''

The American Medical Association is lobbying for legislation to limit jury awards in medical liability claims, which the group says grew at seven times the rate of inflation from 1999 to 2000. The proportion of jury awards topping $1 million increased to 52 percent in 2000 from 34 percent in 1996, the group said.

Bush also used the trip to raise $750,000 for the national and state Republican Party, and for Elizabeth Dole, a 2000 presidential rival now campaigning for the seat held by retiring Republican Senator Jesse Helms. North Carolina's other senator, Democrat John Edwards, is a former malpractice and personal injury lawyer who may challenge Bush for the presidency in 2004.


The Consumer Federation of America and patients' groups say the economy's slowdown are to blame for insurance cost increases. ''They turn around and blame lawsuits and blame juries,'' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the New York-based Center for Justice and Democracy. ''There's no evidence to support it.''

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