Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lawmakers approve deal to fight malpractice woes

Lawmakers approve deal to fight malpractice woes


May 31, 2005


Ending two years of political gridlock, Illinois lawmakers moved to help lower doctors' medical malpractice insurance rates Tuesday by approving legislation to limit lawsuit awards and strengthen oversight of insurers and doctors.

After long debates filled with accusations of political pandering, the Illinois House and Senate sent the proposal to Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has pledged to sign it.

"We need to do all we can to keep doctors in our state caring for our families instead of watching them flee to escape the high cost of medical malpractice premiums," the Democratic governor said in a statement, though he says he personally opposes limiting lawsuit awards.

The legislation was crafted last week by Democratic leaders working with the doctors and hospitals who have been pushing for legislative action for the last two years. The House approved it 68-46 Monday afternoon, and the Senate passed it 36-22 early Tuesday, the day lawmakers are scheduled to end their legislative session.

Sen. James Meeks, an independent from Chicago, fought the measure, arguing that it would discriminate against stay-at-home mothers, the poor, the elderly and others with limited incomes. He accused Democratic leaders of backing the bill just to avoid losing downstate Senate seats.

"We're forced to call a bad bill to stay in the majority," he said. "People will walk around crippled, people will walk around maimed because we're taking a political vote."

But Sen. Peter Roskam, R-Glen Ellyn, said something must be done to keep doctors from closing their doors.

"This is no longer doctors versus lawyers arguing about who gets to drive the Mercedes," Roskam said. "This is about ... the physicians saying 'You win. We're out of here. We can't afford this anymore."'

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Copyright © The Sun-Times Company

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