SMASH crusade goes statewide

By Ann Knef | May 6, 2005

Metro East surgeon Morris Kugler, M.D. believes in the strength of numbers and unity.

Having renamed his political action committee SMASH to Statewide (formerly southern Illinois) Medical Alliance for the Survival of Healthcare, Kugler and his troops are marching north for tort reform.

"Forget just southern Illinois--we're going statewide," said Morris Kugler, M.D., SMASH founder.

Doctors from Belleville, Alton, Maryville, Carbondale, Mt. Vernon and Litchfield, as well as nurses from all over southern Illinois will be traveling to Chicago hospitals May 13 to launch Operation: Little Egypt. The contingent will meet one-on-one with healthcare professionals in several Cook County hospitals to explain how they can affect change in Springfield.

Kugler said that in spite of recent moves in the state legislature that signal tort reform may pass this spring, his organization is going to keep the pressure on legislators.

"We're going doctor to doctor in key districts," Kugler said. "Our Chicago brethren have been very receptive to us."

The formula for influencing change is simple and proven effective.

"We talk to doctors. Doctors talk to their patients. Patients call their legislators," he said.

The group's primary target is Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago). Jones, who controls movement of legislation in the Senate, has repeatedly indicated he is against caps.

"Doctors will say to their patients, if you want me to be your doctor, call Emil Jones. Here is his number."

SMASH has proven its powerful leverage--the outcome of the Illinois Supreme Court race, Kugler said.

"We'll issue a report card on their votes," he said.

Kugler said Metro East doctors were "infuriated" when a promised committee vote on a senate caps bill was thwarted in March. Judiciary Committee members Sens. James Clayborne (D-Belleville) and Bill Haine (D-Alton) indicated they would have voted in favor of the bill capping non-economic damages against doctors at $250,000.

Currently, a proposed amendment to senate legislation caps non-economic damages for doctors at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million.

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