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Republicans believe a lifetime of pain and suffering is only worth $250,000


Sho-nuff

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http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,91440,00.html

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats won their fight Wednesday to bottle up legislation limiting damage awards in medical malpractice cases, dooming a measure that President Bush made a priority.

The vote was 49-48, 11 short of the 60 needed to overcome the Democratic-led filibuster (search).

Within minutes, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) pulled the measure from the floor, although other Republicans said the issue would return, either in Congress or the 2004 elections.

Republicans said the bill was necessary to attack a spreading medical malpractice crisis. "The problem is caused by out of control jury awards in frivolous lawsuits, which are cheaper to settle...than they are to fight," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. "And the reason they'll settle is because of the potential for huge awards......then pass the higher rates on to doctors.

But Democrats said rising premiums were not to blame and said the bill would punish individuals already grievously impaired by medical errors while protecting groups such as the American Medical Association (search), HMOs, drug companies and the manufacturers of medical devices. "Time and time again this Senate races to protect special interest groups and forgets the families and children and elderly people across America who are the victims of this wrongdoing," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

The legislation proposed limiting non-economic damages, commonly known as pain and suffering, to $250,000. Punitive damages would be capped at the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages, which cover medical expenses, loss of wages, funeral expenses and similar costs. States would be permitted to enact higher limits.

Additionally, the measure called for limiting the amount of money attorneys could pocket if they work on a case on a contingency fee.

In a statement issued shortly after the vote, Bush expressed his disappointment. "The nation's medical liability system is badly broken, and access to quality health care for Americans is endangered by frivolous and abusive lawsuits," he said, urging the Senate to act quickly on the issue.

From the start, the bill seemed unlikely to advance far.

Frist brought it to the floor without any committee hearings or debate -- the type of tactic that Republicans sharply criticized when Democrats employed it in the 18 months they recently held the majority.

At its core, the bill marked a clash of special interests. The American Medical Association, American Insurers Association and the American Hospital Association, all of which donate millions to Republican causes, supported the measure.

Additionally, some Republican aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the party was hoping that advancing the legislation in Congress would repair relations with the AMA, frayed during a prolonged debate over patients rights legislation.

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (search), which gives to Democrats, worked to defeat the measure.

The House passed similar legislation earlier this year, on a largely party-line vote.

McConnell and other Republicans relied repeatedly on AMA material during debate on the measure, using a map of the United States to identify states that the doctors' organization said were at or near a malpractice crisis.

"This is now truly about patients having access to quality health care," Ensign said.

Democrats didn't dispute the need for legislation, but rejected the Republican claim that a cap would curb malpractice rates.

Additionally, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle told reporters that the proposed cap would apply more broadly than to doctors.

"Under that cap would also go HMOs, medical device manufacturers, hospitals, you name it, drug companies...This is more than just a doctor protection. This is a protection for anybody involved in health care delivery."

Durbin and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. backed an alternative that included a voluntary reporting system for medical errors and tax credits to defray the rising cost of malpractice insurance for some doctors. But under the Senate's rules, Democrats had to allow the GOP measure past the 60-vote hurdle before the rival plan could be considered.

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I believe that $250,000 is to low. I would be in favor a $1 million cap excuding medical expenses. The real solution to this problem is if we adopt a "loser pays" system. No more of this contingency basis crap. THIS would get rid of the frivolous law suits. The average malpractive insurance for an OBGYN is nearing $50,000 anually.

Read about tort reform and maybe you will understand the need for a cap.

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Not suggesting that - I just didnt have the stats...if the average DR. is making 150-200k (and OBGYN's higher than that per se) a year...then some of the GOP's statements that the average doctor can't afford malpractice insurance is bunk. But then...I honestly don't know what the average DR earns and what the average DR. pays in malpractice insurance.

To me, as much of a slave to the trial lawyers the DEMS are, the GOP is equally a slave to the AMA and the Drug Companies.

Both sides come out stinking...

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1998 Statistics:

Average Starting Salaries

The average starting salary across all areas of the country is between $150,000 and $165,000. Two types of arrangements are generally offered. First you may be offered a salaried position with or without the option to earn bonuses based on productivity. Productivity bonuses may boost your income an additional 20%. This combination of salary and productivity bonus is the most common compensation plan. Or, you may be offered an income guarantee for 1-3 years. Many arrangements also guarantee an increase in years two and three. In general, OB/GYNs report an average increase of 11.7% in year two and a 13.3% increase in year three

Article link

So take the 38.6% in taxes away and what do you have left? So at $165,00 you would pay $63,690 thus leaving you about $100 grand! Then subtract the 98' figure for insurance. Bottom line, I can make six figures at the phone company and someone who received a doctorate degree and is responsable for the health of hundreds only makes a miniscule amount more then a service technician at the phone company? Why become a physician if you are going to have to bend over and grab the ankles? Why not learn a trade and make the same money with little to no risk?

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Originally posted by Sho-nuff

The legislation proposed limiting non-economic damages, commonly known as pain and suffering, to $250,000. Punitive damages would be capped at the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages, which cover medical expenses, loss of wages, funeral expenses and similar costs. States would be permitted to enact higher limits.

Key words. This measure is simply meant to spur debate on this issue in each state, something which is eminently fair.

CA has a $250k general damages cap in med mal cases (which doesn't apply to medical devices, BTW, as those are products liability actions). That limit is too low, however I do like the idea of caps on general damages.

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I forgot you have to staf your practice and pay the electric and so on and son and that HUGE student loan that was required to get to that "high paying" job.

Don't get me wrong, they are not starving. However, THEY are being asked to pick up the tab and what happens when they get tired of it? They either move to a more "insurance friendly" state or raise their rates which will impact MY INSURANCE PREMIUMS!!!!!!!!!!!

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TEG-

I don't happen to love my party's position on many aspects of civil litigation, and I like their rhetoric less. "Frivolous lawsuit" has become so overused as to be meaningless.

There are frivolous lawsuits. There are runaway verdicts. But I don't think that that's a typical result. The real injustice in the vast majority of cases is how much it costs to come to the resolution of the issue, not the resolution itself.

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Those are called settlements. It's cheaper to settle, right or wrong, then drag something out in court. This is why the loser pays system would stop this. And for those of you who are CRYING for socialized medicine,ask someone what rights you have as a patient in a VA hospital. You don't have any and you can't sue a government hospital thus making the BAD republicans look REALLY good in this argument. A cap of say $500,000 or oops, sorry we missed the cancer seedlings, that's too bad, your uterus must come out. So stop whining you libs!!!!!!

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TEG, the BEST solution is the loser pays system. I agree that the cap is somewhat unjust; however, because this country is infested with bed wetters we will never see such legislation. It's not a fair law for those who are seriously incapacitated do to the negligance of a physician. So when are we going to stand up straigh and bare the responsibilty of accusing a physician of malpractice? A lawyer would still be able to operate on a contingency basis, except they would do so in a more prudent manner.

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TEG, that's not what he said.

And BTW, I wouldn't take ANY money for my limbs. Does that mean that I should receive no money? Infinite money?

Take the subjectivity out; if you're a trial lawyer, you are disallowed from making "how would you feel" arguments to the jury for this very reason.

The question is how do we get justice for wrongly injured patients, fairness for doctors, and low health care and malpractice insurance all at the same time? That's a ***** of a problem.

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I don't think this should be a partisan issue at all. Tort reform is a necessity. Medical malpractice is not the only problem, though, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Whoever said that people end up settling out of court because a lengthy trial would be MORE expensive is dead on. It makes economic considerations trump fairness, so a "loser pays" system might help to rectify that situation.

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I'd heard a proposal for a tort reform I could live with.

(Background: The case being discussed was the "McDonald's Coffee Case". Woman received an $8M verdict because she spilled coffee on herself while she was trying to remove the lid.)

My position was that what was wrong, here, wasn't that she was allowed to sue, or the amount of the award, but the verdict. McDonalds didn't do anything wrong.

But, if, say, the prosecution had shown that the cup was defective, and that McD knew about it, then I could see an award like that being justified.

(The largest portion of that award was punative damages: The jury ruled that what McD did was so wrong that they needed to be punished for it. While I disagree with the verdict, let's face it: $8M isn't a lot of punishment for a defendant that size.)

The person I got this proposal from was seeking a goal: How do you reform the system, in such a way that

[*]Doesn't make it impossible to punish a defendant who happens to be a multi-billionaire.

[*]Doesn't make it isn't illegal (or impossible) for poor people to sue rich defendants.

[*]Doesn't encourage people don't view civil suits as lottery tickets?

[/list=1]

(Every proposal I see from the GOP seems to be designed to be counter to goals 1 or 2. "Yeah, if McD pours a cup of coffee on you because he's trying get the license plate number of the car in front of you for their new "total customer information" program, and you can prove that it's happened 250 times before, but they haven't done anything about it, then you can sue. If you can prove in advance, that you can pay for the lawyer that McDonald's is going to hire.")

His proposal was a cap on non-economic damages set at some level (he proposed making it three times whatever the economic damages were). Above that level, the jury can still award punative damages as they see fit, but the money goes into the county treasury (or wherever other criminal fines go in that jurisdiction.)

His position was that the purpose of punative damages is to punish a wrongdoer, not to create a new instant millionaire. And he (and I) thought it might at least cut down on TV ads for "If you, or anyone you know, has ever had anything bad happen to them, anywhere within 100 yards of a nursing home, call 1-800-. . . "

(And, the tendancy, in some suit-happy plaintifs, to think in terms of "I heard that some lady in Texas got $52M for something like this.")

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Originally posted by The Evil Genius

So mardi...you would give up the use of you arms and legs due to a surgeon's malpractice for $250k?

I wouldn't give any amount of money for the use of my arms and legs. How much would you give up?

And what does that have to do with compensation for the error of a surgeon doing his job?

BTW. If we're talking about gross negligence, we're also talking about some serious jail time for the offender...not because he is a surgeon, but because he would be a criminal at that point.

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Who do you think makes up the GOP, Doctors, Lawyers, and the people that think the all mighty dollar is worth its price, no matter how many pounds of flesh it cost. With the GOP its not about people, its about money, and you, your wife, your whole family is expendable, as long as they get their $$$$, and oh yeah taxes must be at a minimum. And then they want stats to prove that things are not f*cked up. Utopia....NOT!!!!!

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ouryear tsk tsk.

Lawyers on a whole are democratic.

Why on earth would trial lawyers (ambulance chasers) want the GOP to succeed in tort reform?

And it has been proven that the multi millionaire support the democrats more than the GOP.

Heck even Danny Snyder supports the Democrats as does Oprah and Bill Gates (but out of spite now).

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Love the clever, clearly-reasoned, way you got from "trial lawyers" to "ambulance chasers".

Never mind that, in order for those greedy ambulance chasers to get a dime, a jury has to agree unanimously that it's appropriate: We know better, and what's clearly needed is to change the law to say that no matter what the offense, and no matter the size of the defendant, the punishment cannot possibly exceed a few hours profit.

Bear in mind, the punishment's that're being discussed are for the purpose of punishing the defendant, and everybody knows that 100K from Bill Gates (or a corporation with 100 times his personal worth) is exactly the same punishment as the same amount from you. (But not, I assure you, from me).

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I cringe at loser pays systems. A big corporation typically has a law firm on retainer. A large firm can swamp the lawyer a poor person can hire or prevent a pro-bono legit case from going anywhere simply because of the resources necessary to win it.

I love the punitive damages above a cetain amount to the state line of thought though. After all, punitive damages is administered by the state because the defendent did something adverse to society. He/she should be paying the same society.

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The (history) professor who proposed that system to me (and everybody else in the class) pointed out that the purpose of punative damages was to punish the defendant, not to create a lawsuit-lottery-milliionaire. (And, other, criminal, fines don't go to the injured party.)

He simply said it was a system where multi-millionaire defendants aren't imune from punishment, but where plaintiffs won't think of it as a lottery.

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