GOP renews attack on malpractice awards; Republicans seeking limits on medical malpractice judgments see tort reform as potent political weapon for the 2004 campaign

Chicago Tribune
Friday, September 19, 2003

When the Senate rejected sweeping legislation this summer to limit how much money patients can win in medical malpractice cases, opponents hailed it as a victory for those injured by negligent doctors, drug companies and makers of medical devices.

But their triumph could be fleeting. Senate aides say Republicans will soon take another crack at limiting medical malpractice awards, which they say is critical to easing a crisis caused by skyrocketing insurance premiums.

But Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, an anti-tort reform consumer rights group, said imposing caps is not the answer.Doroshow pointed to a recent study by Weiss Ratings Inc., an independent provider of ratings and analyses of financial services companies, mutual funds and stocks. It concluded that in states that implemented damage caps between 1991 and 2002, doctors' insurance premiums jumped by 48.2 percent; but in states without caps, the increase was smaller, 35.9 percent.

The American Tort Reform Association's Schaefer declined to discuss the Weiss Ratings study, but said another survey by the General Accounting Office had reached a different conclusion. She said its report, released in August, showed growth in medical malpractice premiums was slower in states that had enacted tort reform laws.

The GAO report concluded that "multiple factors have combined" to increase medical malpractice premiums in the past several years, but that malpractice claims "appear to be the primary driver" of higher rates in the long run.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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