October 11th, 2009
03:07 PM ET
5 years ago

Casey: $250K cap on malpractice damages 'insulting'

Sen. Casey said Sunday that an aspect of medical malpractice reform favored by many congressional Republicans was 'insulting' and wouldn't be 'justice as we have come to understand it.'
Sen. Casey said Sunday that an aspect of medical malpractice reform favored by many congressional Republicans was 'insulting' and wouldn't be 'justice as we have come to understand it.'

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A moderate Pennsylvania Democrat came out strongly Sunday against the possibility of imposing a cap on medical malpractice damages as part of comprehensive health care reform legislation currently under consideration in Congress.

“I don’t think the way to go is to limit the rights of Americans who are injured by negligent or intentional conduct,” Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey who is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.

“A $250,000 cap on damages, in my humble opinion, is insulting to our system of justice,” Casey also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “That is not justice as we have come to understand it.”

In an interview that aired earlier on State of the Union, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain suggested that medical malpractice reform was one area where the GOP should begin to crystallize its own positive health care reform agenda now that Congress is about to begin to process of melding together several health care bills in both chambers.

But, pointing to the experience of her state, Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow suggested that the Republican approach to malpractice reform was too simplistic.

“There’s a different way to come at it,” Stabenow told King, “The Republicans have a very traditional approach over and over again – whether or not [malpractice reform] has worked.” Stabenow said damages caps imposed in Michigan had not stemmed increases in the malpractice insurance rates paid by doctors.

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budge Office issued a cost estimate of the health care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee which concluded that inclusion of tort reform in the legislation would save $54 billion.

soundoff (225 Responses)
  1. LisaB

    It might save $54 billion, but at the expense of American citizens who are the victims of careless or reckless doctors

    October 11, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. Alicia

    I agree with my Pennsylvania Senator.

    I also feel that there should be more grants for medical students. We throw away money on greedy wall street hogs, why not?

    WOW AN ARTICLE ON CNN SUNDAY THAT WAS NOT ABOUT STATE OF THE JOHN MCCAIN UNION. (I find it disrespectful that this continues.)

    October 11, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. Censorship in Practice form at CNN--S Callahan NYS

    CAPS are CRAP.

    I don't agree with this....what is the incentive for quality medical care....you are targeting the wrong group...CAP the insurance companies that charge the Doctors...not the awards to the harmed persons. It just amazes me that so many are blinded that the insurance companies are the ones making this stuff up as they go along....people behind these companies sitting quite comfortably.

    October 11, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. annie s

    The person left crippled by a surgeon's knife or the child born with brain damage due to a doctor's negligence needs far more than $250,000 worth of care in their lives. And all the talk of tort reform being some sort of panacea is a lie anyway. In Florida, extensive tort reform was passed many years ago – malpractice premiums continue to rise to obscene rates and physicians continue to order duplicate and unnecessary tests. Republicans need to get a clue.

    October 11, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Jim

    The majority of people are hospitalized for personal choice failures such as obesity related diseases (including heart disease and diabetes), smoking, alcohol related problems, and doctor compliance issues. This behavior severely overburdens an already strained health care system. People should not be allowed to sue their doctor or hospital for something that they should never have been there for in the first place.

    October 11, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. Dan

    When is everybody going to wake up and realize these caps are not going to bring down insurance companies rates. When are people going to ealize insurance companies – health, medical, etc. – have been gouging us and and tehy need to be regulated because they won't do it themselves. But then again, who among us is big enough to stop them. I really don't think there is anyone brave enough.......

    October 11, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  7. not alone

    They have tried tort reforms in texas and other states and it goes to show that tort reform only help the isurance companys.Texas has seen those same company charge more rather then see the isurance rates go down like those companys said it would.Tort reform is a joke and a sad one at that.Just proof that the republicans are only for big bussness rather then the aremican people.

    October 11, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  8. tate

    Democants are owned by tort lawyers, a group who makes money off of suing people.

    October 11, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  9. Reformed Republican

    Lemme get this straight.

    The rethuglicons say that if a doctor or hospital gives you the wrong medicine thru an obviously avoidable error that then turns you into a semi-vegetable requireing 24 hr. care for the rest of your life you can only get a quarter of million dollars tops?

    What kind of reform is this? What do these rethugs think we Americans are – Stupid?

    ABSOLUTELY NO on this kind of tort "reform" – it's feloney stupidity!

    October 11, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  10. Bugl3t

    I am a supporter of Barack Obama... but at this point, I will rebel. It seems to me that the health care agenda has been subverted by Big Medicine/Big Inusrance and it isn't about coverage or care anymore...

    It's about corporate libertarians getting EXACTLY what they want - more money for less services and less accountability.

    I mean, what have WE gotten at this point? EVERYONE MUST BUY IT and YOU CAN'T SUE AND HURT US if we screw up.

    It won't matter if they have to cover your cancer because pre-existing conditions have to be covered. It won't matter that they can't cap your treatment.

    They can just give you something that kills you and all they have to pay is $250K. THAT'S CHEAP.

    October 11, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Merit

    The State of Florida allows a doctor to practice with no malpractice insurance at all. The doctor need only post a sign in his / her waiting room stating that the doctor has no malpractice insurance. The doctor then needs only to post a bond of $250,000. Florida has a statute that limits a doctor's liability to $250,000, but Florida's physicians continue to use malpractice suits as a reason for unnecessary testing. Doctors will not be satisfied until they have no liability at all. They are horrible about discplining their colleagues for malpractice and own all of the politicians through their donations, PACs, etc. It is a very sad situation that Democrats do not bring this situation up, but they too are owned by the AMA and insurance industry.

    October 11, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  12. SYNCBOX

    It's time that healthcare insurance become NON-PROFIT, period. If you are going to force everyone to have it, then you should not be able to make any money of it. No one should.

    Let the government pay for it from taxes and cut the money-changers out of the temple.

    October 11, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  13. Pat F

    This is saying the obvious, but it needs to be said. These two are bought and paid for by the American Trial Lawyers Association (which recently re-named itself the Association for Justice, because the name "trial lawyer" is too...honest?).

    October 11, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. Pat F

    Reformed Republican, don't believe the hype.

    The $250,000 damage limit is on PAIN AND SUFFERING ONLY – non-economic damages.

    There is no limit in any state in the US to economic damages, such as lost wages, medical expenses, etc.

    I thought I'd throw in a little truth here, just for a change. Stabenow is mis-representing Michigan law. I know – I am a practicing Michigan lawyer.

    October 11, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  15. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    any one that wants a cap on how much damages from a doctors mistake in treating a patent is out of this world .. a doctor that doesn't preform there job should be held accountable .it is also a sad way for checks and balances to see how many people in the medical proffesion, probably shouldn't be in it .. education and keeping people responcible for there actions .is the ability to recover from damages.. no limit is a good way to keep them ontop of there game

    October 11, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  16. Chris

    I know someone who was crippled for life due to medical malpractice. There's no way she could survive the rest of her with all the additional expenses caused by her condition on a mere quarter of a million dollars.

    Again, the Right shows their true priorities: increase insurance companies profits while making sure the middle class victims get screwed over.

    October 11, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  17. Patriot

    A cap on medical malpractice? This is just one more way to protect big corporations and screw the little guy. It's what Repubs have always done best.

    If any Dem supports this, he/she needs to be voted out, including our President.

    October 11, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  18. Jefe

    That's great. You go in to have your tonsils removed and some shizophrenic, drug-addict doctor removes your left kidney, right lung, and left leg, and you get $250,000.

    Tort reform is fine, but that's going way too far. If someone is negligent or intentionally hurtful, they need to pay an appropriate and heavy price. What we should be focusing on is not awarding tens of millions of dollars to people who happen to be the unlucky statistics when there is a small chance of a legitimate procedure going badly. That's not negligence.

    October 11, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Kenny G

    Interesting. We can cap doctor salaries and what is paid for medical procedures but not how much we can go after those same doctors. Looks like we want to run the good doctors out of town.

    October 11, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  20. catmom

    Jim The majority of people are hospitalized for personal choice failures such as obesity related diseases (including heart disease and diabetes), smoking, alcohol related problems, and doctor compliance issues. This behavior severely overburdens an already strained health care system. People should not be allowed to sue their doctor or hospital for something that they should never have been there for in the first place.
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Jim, what expert told you that the majority of people are hospitalized for personal choice failures? I get tired of reading comments from righteous people who seem to have no faults. People get sick for a variety of reasons including personal choice issues. We are human and humans are not perfect nor are we all alike with all the same challenges and abilities. Good for you and those who live a perfect life and have accomplished good things in their lives. You are lucky. But, that does not mean that people who have not been as lucky as you or as healthy as you don't deserve every opportunity this great country can offer including affordable health care for all, despite their life style choices. It also shouldn't prevent someone from suing a doctor, hospital, nursing home or any other medical practice for negligence. Doctors are humans too and they make mistakes and they should be held accountable for mistakes they make.

    October 11, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  21. Bill B. Nancy,KY

    Where have we heard this type of talk again and again? While you're at it, get yourself a healthcare savings account! Can the conservative spin of rhetoric get anymore tired and old. Rome burned while Nero fiddled!

    October 11, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  22. Bob

    Think Republicans care about YOU,,,HAAAAAAAAAA of course they want a plan that protects the RICH that's what they are about money and greed.

    October 11, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. sarita

    I am a physician, and trust me, most physicians really do try to do the best they can for their patients. Sometimes people die, even when they are being treated correctly: some cancers are beyond ANY doctor's skills. We are still learning how to treat most cancers. Doctors should be protected from some people's idea that they can sue just because there is a bad outcome. Physicians work incredibly hard for the money they make. They train for many years st great personal and financial expense just to be able to practice and they are required to continue their education for the rest of their lives. The government and the insurance industry legislate much of what we are allowed to do, even though they did not go to school to learn how to prescribe appropriate treatments. Adequate health care is getting scarcer, in large because it is so personally and financially risky to practice now. Bad outcomes happen, and although there are physicians who are negligent, there are also patients who think they are entitled to sue someone if a treatment doesn't work.

    October 11, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  24. Bob

    Pat!

    Then why put it in a Federal bill?

    October 11, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. Lilarose in Bandon, OR

    Limit damages only to the extent of what it will cost to take care of an injured person's liabilities and a reasonable amount to take care of them for a lifetime if it is needed.

    The payments for "pain and suffering" are ridiculous. We ALL take chances of getting injured or even dying by the hands of doctors or fellow drivers on the roads. In a heartbeat any of us can be the responsible party for accidents.

    Greed to so rampant in the United States. I am ashamed of my fellow Americans at times.

    October 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
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