House kills med mal sex amendment

Ann Knef May 12, 2005, 1:07pm

Mike Bost (R-Carbondale)

John Fritchey's (D-Chicago)

Bob Molaro (D-Chicago)

Attempts to water down a medical malpractice reform bill were plugged on the State House floor Thursday after a second day of challenge to a bill that would cap non-economic damages at $250,000 for physicians and $500,000 for hospitals.

State Rep. John Fritchey's (D-Chicago) amendment to HB 4074, which would "un-cap" damages for doctors who engage in sexual intercourse while on duty at a patient's expense, was defeated 63-50.

"We will accept no amendments," said State Rep. Mike Bost (R-Carbondale), who has been a vigorous downstate medical malpractice reform supporter. "We want a clean bill in the same form."

Bost believe House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) has exhausted all stall tactics by not resisting the bill's forward progress in the House.

Normally amendments are introduced in committee, not on the House floor.

A day earlier reform supporters repelled an effort by erstwhile trial lawyer supporter State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) to amend the bill which passed that day in the House Judiciary Committee--to $1 million for doctors and $2 million for hospitals.

The amendment was defeated 93-22.

"Caps have won. Caps are here," said State Rep. Bob Molaro (D-Chicago).

"Public policy is changed in Illinois. You won," Molaro said.

Earlier Wednesday in a 12-2 vote, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 4074, which includes caps on non-economic damages, insurance reforms and protection of physicians personal assets.

Several Metro-East Democrats were invited to replace sitting members of the House Judiciary Committee so they could vote in favor of the bill.

State Reps. Dan Beiser (D-Alton), Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) and Dan Reitz (D-Steelville)--who represent constituencies that have demanded reform--substituted other Democratic committee members for the roll call vote.

"Supporters of caps ought to be popping champagne," Molaro said before a raucous House floor amendment debate. "I hate caps, but I'm getting the message."

"If you're a doctor out there, you should be jumping for joy. It's a
victory. Be a little bit gracious. Be gracious winners."

Divided legislators battled over raising the caps on non-economic damages to $1 million. Missouri and Indiana legislatures have enacted caps on non-economic damages at $350,000. In Wisconsin, the limit is $500,000.

"I (represent) nine counties with three hospitals that deliver babies, and no neurosurgeons," said State Rep. David Reis (R-Effingham). "When we're uncompetitive, (doctors) leave. We have to be competitive with our surrounding states."

But State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) said caps violate civil rights.

"There's over 98,000 people dying (via medical errors) every year and
we don't know the reason why," she said. "We need to bring the real culprits to the table.

"It's not right that we violate people's civil rights... tell them
that they cannot sue."

The tort reform movement, which began in the Metro-East, has slowly gained the attention of northern lawmakers.

"If this has not affected your family yet, it will," said Renee Kosel (R-New Lenox).

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