Blagojevich had signed caps on damages bill into law

Ann Knef Dec. 14, 2009, 3:38pm

Blagojevich signs bill into law in 2005.

Haine at the bill signing ceremony.

More than four years since medical malpractice reform was enacted in Illinois, stakeholders anxiously await a state Supreme Court decision on its constitutionality.

In looking back, it was then-Governor Rod Blagojevich who signed the Illinois Medical Malpractice Act of 2005 into law on Aug. 25, 2005. The bill would have automatically become law the next day had the governor not ceremoniously signed it before a large crowd of doctors, lawyers, politicians, business people and casual observers at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Alton.

The law caps non-economic damages -- such as pain and suffering -- for physicians at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million.

The Illinois Supreme Court is expected to release its opinion Thursday morning in a challenge case that arose from Cook County, Abigaile Lebron, a minor v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital.

An against-all-odds legislative victory for medical liability reform advocates set the stage for the historic bill signing in 2005.

"A lot of Democrats don't agree with what I am about to do," Blagojevich remarked before signing the bill. And just as he lifted his pen, he even toyed with the crowd composed largely of medical professionals that anyone in the room opposed to his action ought to speak up.

Since the bill was enacted, Blagojevich has been removed from office. He was arrested on federal corruption charges in December 2008 for allegedly attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat held by Barack Obama.

At the bill signing, Blagojevich told the overflow crowd that he was personally opposed to caps, but believed it was the right thing to do so that more people could have access to healthcare.

Legislators, physicians and hospital officials crowded into the hospital's conference room to witness the landmark bill signing.

These remarks were made from some in attendance:

"It's a great day for doctors and patients. The issue has always been about allowing access to healthcare. It's been a difficult and arduous two years. The trial lawyers' opposition made it a better bill."
Sen. William Haine (D-Alton)

"It's an outstanding day for hospitals and patients. The caps on non-economic damages are an absolute necessity to solving the medical liability problem. The governor could have gone about it (enactment) a different way--but he didn't...We want to express our appreciation to legislators particularly those in southern Illinois."
Ken Robbins, (then) Illinois Hospital Association President

"The people in this area worked hard to get this done. They came by the busloads and carloads to Springfield. Now they see the culmination of their efforts. People can make a difference."
(Former) State Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville), Senate Minority Leader

"There will be a legal challenge. Clearly, the legislation, if it holds up, is meaningful and if it is allowed to go into effect, I believe it will bring stability to insurance rates."
Craig Backs, M.D., (then) Illinois State Medical Society President

"During this whole process people who drafted it were aware of the challenges to the '95 law. It was crafted in a way to address that."
State Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton)

"I taught history and government to kids. I used to say to them that in a democracy if enough people want something bad enough and are willing to do something about it, you can get almost anything you want, even though political leaders don't want it to happen. This was a perfect civics lesson."
Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville)

"This is a proud day for SMASH (Statewide Medical Alliance for Saving Healthcare). The governor was against this tooth and claw. He recognized for economic stability that if there are no doctors, there are no hospitals, no schools, no businesses. He wisely decided."
Morris Kugler, M.D., founder of SMASH

"This is a good day for Madison County. I'm thankful something has been done to keep doctors in the area. I give credit to Sen. (William) Haine, the main person responsible, and all who worked it out."
Alan Dunstan, Madison County Board Chairman

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Illinois Hospital Association
1151 Warrenville Road
Naperville, Illinois 60566

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