Targeted HCLA ads push medical-liability reform

The Hill
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A coalition of proponents of medical-liability reform is targeting a handful of senators with radio and print ads in preparation for a coordinated grassroots and advertising campaign coinciding with an impending Senate debate.
Over the recent congressional recess, the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA) targeted senators in four states: New Jersey, Delaware, North Dakota and Idaho. The campaign has carried on into this week and will include limited inside-the-Beltway advertising.

Proponents of limits on medical-malpractice lawsuits have championed a 1975 California law that caps so-called noneconomic damages (such as future lost wages) at $250,000 but allows unlimited economic and punitive damages.
The recent experiences of Texas healthcare providers inspired the national provider groups and some Senate Republicans to take a fresh look at their legislation.
The 2003 Texas law uses a “stacked cap” that permits a plaintiff to win up to $750,000 in noneconomic damages but limits any single provider’s exposure to $250,000.
“The results here [have] been just unbelievable,” Texas Medical Association President Robert Gunby Jr. said. Citing Texas Medical Board data, Texas provider groups say there are 3,000 more doctors in the state than before the law took effect in September 2003.
Opponents of capping lawsuit awards reject that analysis. According to the Center for Justice & Democracy, Texas insurance companies lowered their rates only after being threatened by state lawmakers with mandatory rate cuts.

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