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. LMC

    I think there needs to be a common sense approach. Certainly there are frivolous suits and certainly not every medical issue gone wrong is the doctor's fault. Suits should be restricted to true incompetence. Removing the wrong limb or organ is incompetence. Not getting the desired result is not always incompetence–doctors aren't miracle workers! Maybe what is needed more are review boards to review the suits and determine what is tru incompetence.

    October 11, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. Moby

    Let's make this simple. Instead of paying malpractice insurance, let the doctors pay the same fee as an excise tax and offer them a tax credit if no one sues them. They would have the profit incentive not to screw up so we both win. The only losers are the insurance companies playing both sides of the street. What do you think???

    October 11, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. ICARE

    The amount should allow you to be able to retire for the rest of your life so you dont have to work. I think 3million should be good enough and after taxes, you'll be okay. This is the right way to do it.

    October 11, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  4. SW. Sharp

    OK; If you want this cap Reform The AMA. Require a nationwide register of doctors guilty of malpractice. Nationwide cap on number of offenses. Administrative law judges involved with the discipline process & a transparent, nationwide licensing authority. Quacks just move to a new state & continue to butcher patients.

    October 11, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  5. ICARE

    It needs to be a common sense amount but not 80 million like the ones that I have heard on TV.

    October 11, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. Alex Logan

    My wife is a Doctor of Internal Medicine in the Dallas area. I am her office manager. I have heard many physicians discuss many topics for ten years. Texas instituted a $250,000 cap on the pain and suffering portion of damages several years ago. Total damages are capped at $750,000. The law has been succeeded in lowering malpractice suits and rates and brought new malpractice insurers to Texas. It took several years for lawsuits filed prior to the change to work their way through the system. It is unfortunate that we have to have statutory regulation but in the absence of complete information, transparency and accountability the law is beneficial.

    October 11, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. JR

    I consider my life worth more than $250,000, but it appears republicans think they are worthless.

    October 11, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Mike

    I've had the "pleasure" of being picked for Jury Duty twice for lawsuits regarding "pain and suffering".
    Both times it was Fat Lazy Black Women thinking they had their ticket to riches. They were disrespectful to the court, showing up late, chomping on chewing gum, getting calls on the cell phones. Both times we said NO, but I wonder how many other juries say Yes?
    I couldn't believe the colossal waste of time and money for Lawyers, Court Room, Judges, Jury, etc.
    The next time I'm picked, I'm going to ask the Plaintiff to take my $20 Jury Duty pay and drop the case instead of wasting my day. Otherwise you're getting Nothing.

    October 11, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Victim of Liberal stupidity

    Hmmmm, What other industry gets paid a guaranteed 33% profit +their expenses? Lawyers simply put a monetary value on a loved one's life or limb with the results being paid for by everyone else in America. You want to talk about greed, you better take a look at the trial layer lobbyist Groups. How much is your leg worth? How much is your arm worth? If you want affordable healthcare without paying increased taxation, TORT LAW REFORM!

    October 11, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. davidw

    Bob Casey's three largest contributors are law firms, and of total contributions in the 2005-2010 cycle, over $3.4 million was contributed by law firms, the largest sector by far, eclipsing the totals of the next 4 groups donating. Do you think this may influence why he is "insulted" by the need for malpractice caps?

    October 11, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  11. rkidd

    Allow actual damages i.e. loss of work and future earnings plus pain and suffering. and resonable attorny fees

    Any punitive damages should not go to the plaintive, they should be considered a fine and awarded to the government.

    Attorneys should not share in any punitive damages.

    October 11, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  12. Carl

    Plainly, a cap penalizes those most badly injured by doctor and hospital negligence. Over 60% of malpractice cases are committed by under 10% of practicing doctors. There is absolutely no meaningful oversight by the medical profession to weed out incompetent or substance abusing doctors. States with caps have NOT had any reduction in malpractice premiums paid by doctors. The cuprits are clearly the insurance companies who have bought off the Republican proponents of these draconian limits. And costs attributed to medical negligence comprise less the 5% of all medical expenditures nationally. Limiting recoveries will end up costing the rest of us when these undercompensated victims of doctor negligence are forced to turn to public assistance because they are no longer able to work or provide for their families.

    October 11, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. GuyInVA

    If not for the ambulance chasing attorneys who have driven up premiums for malpractice insurance (and therefore medical bills as well) with frivolous lawsuits argued before hand picked sympathetic judges, this conversation might not be necessary. I would like to know the specifics of the Michigan law on damages caps. Also, considering the overall situation there, should Senator Stabenow hold Michigan up as an example of anything other than a labor union dominated failure?

    October 11, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. Karla

    To all who think this is a good idea: I'm in constant pain from a doctor's mistake and I can't go out and earn my 50K a yr. You really think receiving 250k & going completely broke in 5 yrs should be ok w/me? Really?

    October 11, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. lovable liberal

    Here's the savings: $54 billion over 10 years for 300 million people – $18 each per year.

    The Republicans are willing to immunize malpractice for that pittance. Think about that!

    October 11, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. BRP

    I am not against people who have actually suffered getting a higher amount of money for a malpractice suit but for people who sue an unbelieveable amount of money when their case is ridiculious then I am all for this cap, the courts need to weed out those who sue just to make money and those who have geniue cases.

    October 11, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. jack

    There is an easy solution to this issue: Let the doctors open a malpractice savings account to pay for their own mistakes. After all, isn't that the "Conservative" solution for all health care issues?

    October 11, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. AZ Jake

    Wow the GOP now has a plan ... where the hell have they been with their ideas? ... grumbling about Obama so much has taken all their time ... maybe it's time they refocus their eyes and engage their brains. Duh

    October 11, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. medstudent

    This article is very misleading. The 250 cap is for pain and suffering, NOT for economic damages/medical expenses. The ignorance of these posts shows that people are completely unaware as to how the healthcare system works. In the current system, patients sue for any unexpected outcome, even if current guidelines were followed, and the risks were known. In this system, they are ALLOWED to do that, and guess what? The lawyers make money off of that. There should be a penalty on wrongful lawsuits. In this country, about 60 percent of malpractice cases are NOT due to negligence, but because patients and lawyers are sue happy.

    October 11, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. TCM

    Yeah, a cap on damages is ridiculous, let's just fine people for not having insurance, instead...that's a much better idea! stupid dems!

    October 11, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  21. Ann

    How would a cap provide better medical serivces to the poor. It seems to me that once again the middle class and the poor are not a priority for leaders of our country. I do not see anyone talking about a cap on bonus pay for bankers that make poor decisions. GOP is always talking about the right to life but yet they do not want to defend life once it is here.

    October 11, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  22. Scott

    If you think $250,000 is to low that start doing your job and talk and come to an agreement on limits.

    October 11, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  23. mk

    All one has to do is have a relative injured by a medical mistake or medical neglect to see that the cap is unfair. Try taking care of an invalid for 250,000 for their lifetime, it is impossible. The "let them eat cake" attitude is pervasive on the political right, Christians with a conscious, if you ask me.

    October 11, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  24. Pragmatic

    If you are someone who has suffered from medical malpractice ... we would like to hear from you.... was the good kidney removed and the cancer filled one left? Did a surgeon remove the wrong leg, or the wrong breast? Were you given the wrong medication?

    If so, how do you feel about capping the award limit? Did you sue or did you smile and say "oh well, doctors are only human ... mistakes were made." These are the people we need to hear from.

    October 11, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. slp

    So what is an acceptable amount, Sen. Casey? It seems to me that this would be a deterrent to those who are only looking for a large windfall. Malpractice suits should be limited to gross negligence only. It shouldn't be about the money, but about making sure that negligent behavior by the occasional doctor doesn't extend to others.

    October 11, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
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