Medical bill advances

Champaign News-Gazette
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Illinois General Assembly on Monday passed legislation to limit jury awards to medical patients in malpractice cases, a move supporters say is necessary to curb soaring malpractice insurance rates that are driving doctors out of the state.
"It's about access to health care and public health," said state Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Steeleville, who sponsored SB 475 in the House.
After intense debate, the legislation passed on a vote of 68 to 46 in the House and 36 to 22 in the Senate.
It would preserve unlimited economic damages to compensate for lost wages, medical bills and other associated expenses, but would cap non-economic damage awards to compensate for things like pain and suffering, loss of life or limb, disfigurement and loss of companionship.
The bill limits non-economic damage awards against doctors to $500,000, and $1 million against hospitals.
State Sen. David Miller, D-Chicago, who voted no, warned that caps are not a miracle cure when it comes to the problem of access to health care.
"It would be disingenuous for us to sit and say that this is the answer to a very complex problem," he said.
Opponents of caps, including the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the Center for Justice and Democracy, say they restrict victims' rights, are not guaranteed to reduce insurance premiums and are unconstitutional.
"It's not right, it's not fair, and it's not legal," said state Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D

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