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Senate Opponents Again Thwart Medical Malpractice Reform

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Senate Opponents Again Thwart Medical Malpractice Reform


The Senate has again “dropped the ball” on medical malpractice reform following a procedural vote that sidetracked legislation targeted at obstetrical and gynecological services, a health insurance group says.

The National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va., says it is extremely disappointed that the legislation, S. 2061, did not garner the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and thus shut off a filibuster by opponents of reform.

Janet Trautwein, vice president of government affairs for NAHU, notes that while last year the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, a comprehensive medical liability reform, the Senate has not been able to act.

“Congress must take action to ensure that medical malpractice laws provide adequate compensation for those who are truly injured while reducing frivolous lawsuits and extraordinary damage awards so more Americans have access to affordable health care,” she says.

S. 2061 represented an attempt by the Senate leadership to advance medical malpractice reform by focusing on specialties that have experienced particular problems with malpractice insurance rates.

S. 2061 would have imposed a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. In addition, it would have limited punitive damages to $250,000 or two times economic damages, whichever is greater.

Moreover, it would have established standards for the award of punitive damages. Under this test, punitive damages could be awarded only if the plaintiff proves that the defendant acted with “malicious intent” to cause the injury or “deliberately failed” to take steps that could have avoided the injury.

In addition, S. 2061 would have established a statute of limitations for filing ob/gyn malpractice actions, allowed courts to limit contingency fee payments to plaintiffs attorneys and allowed courts to reduce the plaintiffs award for economic damages by any amounts received from collateral sources.

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, February 27, 2004. Copyright 2004 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved. Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.