Critics of med mal urge repeal of caps

Crain's Chicago Business
Sunday, September 24, 2006

Advocacy groups marked the one-year anniversary of Illinois’ medical malpractice reform law Thursday by calling on state lawmakers to repeal caps on the amount of money plaintiffs can collect in lawsuits against doctors and hospitals.
In a letter addressed to Gov. Rod Blagojevich and legislators Thursday, critics of the measure asked them to repeal “this cruel law, which hurts innocent Illinois citizens and has done nothing to reduce doctors’ insurance costs.” The letter was signed by about 20 people who have been victims of malpractice, according to the Center for Justice & Democracy and Citizen Action Illinois.
The governor signed legislation last August that caps malpractice awards for pain and suffering at $500,000 each for physicians and $1 million for hospitals. Medical groups complained that doctors were leaving the state because of soaring insurance premiums and costly jury verdicts.
Sue Hofer, a spokeswoman for the state’s Division of Insurance, said the state does not yet have sufficient data on rates to show how average malpractice premiums are trending.
The law included many provisions aside from the caps, such as expanding the state’s regulatory oversight of insurance rates and giving it broader power to discipline physicians. Chicago-based ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co., the state’s largest medical malpractice insurer, cut average premiums by 5.2% on July 1 after state insurance regulators this spring ordered the carrier to freeze its rates for a year and asked it to consider reducing them.



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