Medical malpractice system supporters held a conference call today to try to get a jump on fighting off a major attack by the Bush administration.[@@]

Bush is scheduled to unveil plans to change the laws governing class-action suits and medical malpractice suits Wednesday in Collinsville, Ill. Collinsville is in Madison County, a jurisdiction recently identified as a “judicial hellhole” for asbestos claims and malpractice suits by the American Tort Reform Association, Washington.

In addition to trial lawyers and representatives for consumer groups, conference call participants included Jay Angoff, who was director of the Missouri Department of Insurance from 1993 to 1998, and Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill.

Schakowsky blamed skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates in Illinois on weak regulatory oversight.

Angoff cited the insurance industry’s large surplus as evidence that insurers are thriving under the current rules.

“Insurance companies have never made more money than they did in 2004,” Angoff said. Insurers are “rolling in dough; they’re swimming in dough,” Angoff added.

But Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, countered the conference call by praising past efforts by President Bush to change the U.S. class-action and medical malpractice systems.

“I hope the president will continue with his past themes,” Ignagni said. “It is time to end the litigation lottery? Our industry hopes the president will lay out a program that will end the irresponsible litigation on the part of the trial lawyers.”

Republicans now hold wider majorities in the House and the Senate than they did during Bush’s first term in office. But, in the past, some conservative Republicans have joined Democrats in opposing Bush administration medical malpractice proposals. Some Republican opponents of the proposals have argued that the medical malpractice controversy is a states-rights issue.