Doctors win on lawsuit cap deal but still face bitter medicine

Belleville News-Democrat
Thursday, May 26, 2005

As state lawmakers prepared to approve a deal on medical malpractice, Illinois doctors and hospitals celebrated a big victory Thursday but also braced for the sour medicine they will likely have to swallow to get their insurance costs to fall.
Democratic leaders brokered the deal this week after a two-year political standoff involving lawyers, the medical community and the companies that insure it.
A House committee approved the deal Thursday, and the full House could vote on it Friday.

The resulting legislation centers on the caps of non-economic damage awards, those for reasons other than medical expenses and lost wages. About 20 other states have similar caps ranging from $250,000 to $1 million.
The Illinois proposal would cap non-economic damages at $500,000 for doctors and $1 million for hospitals - twice as high as the limits doctors wanted.
Advocates say the caps will still lower insurance rates by reducing costly lawsuits and decreasing the chances of juries handing down astronomical verdicts.
Democrats, trial lawyers and victims' advocates, however, argue that there's no evidence that such caps lower insurance costs. Instead, they say, the caps punish victims who have legitimate claims and diminish punishment for bad doctors. Victims' groups and many black lawmakers say legislative leaders shouldn't have given in on caps.
"This is hardly a compromise bill," said Amber Hard of the Center for Justice and Democracy. "The only thing it compromises is patient safety and consumer rights."
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D

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