Two New Med-Mal Cap Bills On the Way

The National Law Journal
Friday, April 28, 2006

Senate Republican leaders hope to introduce two new versions of medical malpractice liability legislation next week for floor action the following week. But chances of final approval remain weak, agree groups on both sides of the controversial issue. 

The first week in May is "Health Week" in the Senate, and Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said he will bring the medical malpractice bills to the floor that week along with other health-related measures. The two bills, S. 22 and S. 23, are not yet in final form, but sources close to the drafting say S. 22 -- likely to be sponsored by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. -- will be a comprehensive approach modeled on Texas' medical malpractice insurance law. 

But opponents of federal legislation on this issue disagree with the Texas assessment and say little has changed in the proposals offered in the Senate in recent years. What has changed, they contend, is that malpractice insurance rates have stabilized nationally. 

"A soft market has taken hold," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice & Democracy, a consumer advocacy group.

"Rates for doctors haven't gone up much at all, an average of about 3 percent. We think this is an entirely political effort," Doroshow said. "So far there's been no real deviation in these bills. They are extremely broad and have in the past included nursing homes and drug companies. There's no indication anyone's position in the Senate has changed."

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