Med Society cautiously optimistic on caps amendment

Ann Knef May 5, 2005, 11:38am

Dr. Craig A. Backs

Ed Murnane

Talk of a caps bill passing in the State House this spring had the Illinois State Medical Society buzzing with optimism.

"The Illinois State Medical Society is pleased to see state legislative leaders and lawmakers in both the Illinois House and Senate take a positive step forward in posing solutions to our state’s medical litigation crisis," said ISMS president Craig A. Backs, M.D. in a written statement.

Earlier in the week State Sen. George Shadid (D-Peoria) proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 276, which would cap non-economic damages against doctors at $500,000 and limit hospital's liability to $1 million.

State Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Greenville) said the House will see a similar caps amendment on Tuesday.

"I'm still very suspicious," he said. "I don't trust the trial lawyers. I hope I'm proved wrong.

"We're not aware of the governor being part of either agreement."

The amendment introduced by Shadid is 82 pages long.

"ISMS is thoroughly reviewing these 80-plus page proposals, and until completion of our analysis, will not take a formal position on either," Backs said.

Ed Murnane, president of the Illinois Civil Justice League, said he was "very much" in favor of legislation that would put limits on non-economic damages for doctors and hospitals.

"But I'm not sure anything is likely to get passed," he said. "I will defer to the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Hospital Association."

Besides the caps language, the ISMS is concerned there may be other untenable language contained in the lengthy amendment.

"Other portions of the language raise serious potential concerns, such as onerous insurance regulation that may chase insurers from the state, and physician malpractice profiles on the Internet," Backs said.

"Further, it remains unclear how this legislation will fare in House/Senate floor debates, in the face of challenge from multiple, hostile amendments"

Tort reform legislation passed by the Illinois legislature in 1995 put a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages. There was no distinction between doctors and hospitals.

"(Caps) would put predicatibility in the system," Murnane said. "It wouldn't necessarily lower medical malpractice (rates) but would restrain the rapid growth."

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Illinois Hospital Association
1151 Warrenville Road
Naperville, Illinois 60566

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