A mother was called to the podium to describe her tale of woe in seeking OB care. She and baby were crowd delights.
Bill Kessler and Ken Robbins
A delighted Sen. Watson
Alan Dunstan (left) and Mark Kern
Reps. Granberg and Hoffman
An against-all-odds legislative victory for medical liability reform advocates unfolded as Governor Rod Blagojevich finally signed the state's medical liability reform bill into law Thursday. It would have automatically become law Friday had he not signed it.
The bill caps non-economic damages for physicians at $500,000 and hospitals at $1 million. It also stipulates more stringent requirements for medical experts and insurance rate increases, as well as provides more oversight for wrong-doing doctors.
"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.
The governor told the over-flow crowd at Saint Anthony's Hospital in Alton that he was personally opposed to "caps," but believed it was the right thing to do so that more people have access to healthcare.
Leadership and governing are about making decisions, Blagojevich said.
"It's also your mission as a public servant," he added.
Legislators, physicians and hospital officials crowded into the hospital's conference room to witness the landmark "caps" enactment. Following are remarks from those 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, Illinois Hospital Association President
"This is the first step in a long battle ahead...Everyone is in a holding pattern, insurance companies, actuaries and doctors.
"St. Clair County lost four more doctors in the past month. In the immediate (term), I don't know what will happnen."
Stephen Burger, M.D., St. Clair County Medical Society President
"It's an essential first step. You can't get to step 2 without going through step 1.
"The situation for doctors is the same all over the state. The climate is so unfavorable to doctors...they are retiring early...young individuals are not choosing medicine as a career.
"On behalf of doctors, I want to thank the governor for his support. Our job is to look out for access to care for patients.
Richard A. Geline, M.D., Chicago
"I feel good. But more needs to be done...venue reform, worker's comp.
"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."
State Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville), Senate Minority Leader
"We're pleased the governor agreed to sign the bill. He recognized that it was in the best interest of patients in Illinois.
"We're entering a new legal environment for the practice of medicine in Illinois.
"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.
"It is limited to medical liability. Our staff looked at it very carefully to address those issues."
Craig Backs, M.D., 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)
"It's a great day for Democracy. Democracy takes time and involves risk.
"If it (the law) passes muster it will make a difference in recruiting (physicians). It's probably already stopped the bleeding.
"There used to be 11 general surgeons in Alton. Now there are four. None are under age 55."
Robert Hamilton, M.D., retired physician and former Madison County Medical Society President
"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
"It's a very good start. We don't have the caps that we originally expected. It's going to help, but it's a little late for Red Bud.
"Our OB unit closed as a result of increased premiums. OB is very costly.
"We paid more in malpractice costs than we were reimbursed for deliveries."
Bob Moore, CEO, Red Bud Hospital
"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
"It's not convenient for me to go to St. Louis to see a doctor, find a parking place.
"We've lost 160 doctors. The best doctors--the ones I would want to see."
Edward Duvivier, M.D., retired Madison County pediatrician
"It's a really good day for the community of Belleville. I didn't have a lot of hope this would happen a couple of years ago. It took a lot of doctors, grassroots and a great citizen effort.
"I didn't talk to anybody that didn't lose their doctor or knew someone who did, or somebody lost their job because a physician left the practice.
"People got the word out and made a difference at the polls."
Tim Brady, CEO, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Belleville
"Physicians and the medical community were on the forefront. They brought this to Springfield."
Keith Page, CEO, Anderson Hospital, Maryville