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

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

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/11/art.caseysotu1011.cnn.jpg caption="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. Dan, CA

    What's the cap in France, Germany, Cuba, Canada or anywhere where health insurance works?

    October 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  2. Scott L

    Democrats have no clue at all about financial matters.

    October 11, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. Cary Johnson

    Just wait until the government is the only source of health care, then try to sue. Good-luck with that. Look at workman's compensation. You will be lucky to get 10k for a malpractice wrongful death lawsuit when big brother is running your health care. Socialism does not work, in-sane pain and suffering judgments benefit NO ONE EXCEPT lawyers.
    Case after case where big judgments have been awarded the plaintiffs are worse off after the fall out from the trials. Look at the percentage the lawyers receive, look at the taxes on the pain and suffering portion, look at the expenses the lawyers also receive, add them up and many times the plaintiff owes money. NOT because the judgment was too low, but because of the crooked Democratic lawyers.

    October 11, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  4. ran

    How about a 250k cap on insurance executives salaries and no bonuses.

    October 11, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. Shiva

    I dont understand why americans think their screwed up system is the best. Whole world medical system is not based on malpractise while the americans are very anal about the malpractise. They concentrate on the things that happen one in thousands while ignoring the burden that cost society. I think the whole system is biased towards lawyers and you can sue for everything in USA. I worked in Europe, Asia and USA, no where else people are more concerned about the malpractise and interested to sue than USA.
    People and doctors should concentrate on the ways to prevent mistakes. Its human to do mistakes, happens every part of life. We should concentrate on the ways to help the people who suffered and also people who did the mistake to prevent future errors.
    There are millions of dollors wasted on people with insurance just to prevent lawsuits and that already over burdens the system. I think we should realize that the natural resources are limited however we develop out technology and should be used appropriately. If we just concentrate on how to sue the people, one day we dont have any resources left to take care of the people even in dire emergency.

    October 11, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  6. Doug504

    While the cap is for only pain and suffering and punitive damages (not actual health care costs or lost wages), it is still isn't going to lower costs. Two steps would help:

    * Pull the medical license of every doctor who loses multiple malpractice suits. According to one study, 5% of doctors cause about half of all malpractice claims.

    * Make insurance companies price premiums based on actual claims rather than "worst case" theories. The number of malpractice claims and total payout has dropped for four years but premiums haven't dropped. Why? Insurance companies say "Since one claim cost millions, we'll assume every claim will cost millions".

    In Canada where doctors have formed their own nonprofit insurance cooperatives, malpractice insurance is 30% to 50% cheaper than the U.S.

    October 11, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Jim

    Please take a hard look at the democratic party and look how many of the elected officials and spouses are lawyers. Then look at the Republican party and see what profession prevails. That, to me helps explain the difference in where they make there money. It is and always will be about making money and power. It has absolutely nothing to do what is right for the American people. I sometimes wonder what I was doing in the Marine Corps. I blame both polical parties for speading hate. What we need is a third national policial party. If you notice, that is the only time when Dems and Repubs get together to kill something.

    October 11, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. Randy

    John McCain is one of the Republicans who are not nice men.
    Not decent, actually out and out rotten.
    He thinks that it is best for us to spend our money toward bullying and killing in Afghanistan, etc. Yet, he is against someone who has been on the tragic end of mistakes made during medical procedures only getting a maximum of $250,000.
    Many people who are victims of botched medical procedures, are disabled (at least from holding down a job) for the rest of their lives.
    These innocent victims deserve at least a statistically average income (about $45,000 per year) for the rest of their lives.

    October 11, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Alex

    Unbelievable, but in this question I agree with republicans. In this planet where I happen to live, there were just recently 5 million of people killed in Congo Civil war. Yes they all deserve tens of millions dollars for their suffering but there is not that kind of money on planet. Suffering and feeling pain is extremely common thing everywhere and it is deeply unjust and nonsensical to pick some hundreds out of the millions and give them (read: their bloodsucking lawyers) hundreds of times more money that they could have earned by honest work. Everyone wants to be millionaire but to become millionaire you should do something productive. And nobody should ever make more money by "suffering" than by honest work. For me, all these "suffering millionaires" are just lucky thieves who got money stolen from everyone who ever paid health bills.

    October 11, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. Jerome

    And any guarantee that this or any other measure being discussed will bring down the cost of health insurance? There isn't even a guarantee that the rate of cost increases will slow. I don't know about anyone else but this bill looks to me like it is shaping up to be a big "WIN" for industry and a net loss for the consumer.

    October 11, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. Larry M. Rose, TX

    Texas capped the pain and suffering for malpractice and we were told it would lower our health care premiums. What a joke. We still pay some of the highest in the nation and rank last for percentage who is covered by health care.

    Health care insurance companies can not be trusted. Period.

    October 11, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  12. Give me a break

    Ok to cap compensation of working people, but not ok to cap non-economic damages thru frivolous lawsuits????

    You should always be able to sue for actual damages. The problem comes from the punitive side where obsence verdicts are issued to "teach a lesson". Does the McDonalds coffee between the legs lawsuit ring any bells. As a country we have gotten stupid. Let's throw out the incumbents next election and get people in office who truely will serve the will of the people and not themselves. Term limits need to be next.

    October 11, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. JJ in NY

    Bob Casey is insulting, as well as all the liberal dems who are in the tank for the trial lawyers. The trial lawers, one of the biggest problems in the nation, own the liberal dems, and their fistful of lobby dollars has bought and paid for the liberal dems .


    October 11, 2009 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. Mayte

    What is insuling is implying that doctors "intentionally" damage patients. That would be criminal and way beyond tort issues. So the word "intentional" needs to be omitted. What is also insulting is the ludicrous pay-outs for pain-and-suffering in cases were there was no negligence. We see it over and over again in headline after headline of lawsuits. Lawyers work on a COMMISSION. Trial lawyers are nothing more than corrupt salesmen. They seek out "victims" for big payouts. They get a commission of the "winnings" after they have paid for all of their charges, their retainer, their court expenses, etc... Their commission is paid on top of that. Unlike other professionals, they give NOTHING back to the world. All they do is take in their corrupt slimy ways. Pharmaceutical companies invest in research that will help people and contribute to scientific progress, and they have contributed billions in free drugs to Africa as well as right here at home. Still they fall victim to the most evil interest group of all lawyers. As a physician, I can tell you that trial lawyers are the ones that are ruining medicine in this country. Shameful!

    October 11, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  15. Rob Stumpf

    That's a great idea, making healthcare non-profit. We should take the profit out of everything while we're at it. Why not? People need food, too! Make supermarkets non-profit! Only in very short order you'll quickly discover that no one is going to be willing to work for free to sell you food. Same with healthcare.

    October 11, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Casey is rifght. The damage that can be inflicted on an unsuspecting patient may cost a lifetime of therapy and costly surgeries to repair or treat. $250,000 is nothing compared to the cost that the victim is likely to incur just to continue their damaged lives.

    October 11, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. D. Tree

    Limiting malpractice lawsuits is the same as limiting sentences in criminal proceedings. Where is the concern for the victim?

    The better idea is to reform the way lawsuits are brought forth – filtering the frivolous ones, while at the same time letting the serious cases be heard.

    October 11, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. Sam I Am

    Malpractice suits are punitive. They are intended to punish those who do something wrong, including insurnace companies who do not allow doctors to perform proceedures with full rigor. Not only should there NOT be a cap, these suits should also include insurance companies who are trying to increase their bottom line by demanding that doctors do not perform the things the doctors know are more effective. $250,000 is not nearly painful enough for those who have caused pain and in some cases killed patients. This once again demonstrates that the Republicans are lap dogs of big insurance. It is not only insulting. It's shameful. Enjoy your time in office, those of you who are not advocating for the American people. Your time is short.

    October 11, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. JonDie

    An injured person should be able to sue for the full amount that the injury caused. Period. However, since this is national issue, we really should have a national law that governs malpractice lawsuits.

    October 11, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. We Won Get Over It

    I remember some time ago that the republicans were jumping up and down and doing their cry baby stunt about malpractice being the cause of high health costs....I also remember a survey came out that proved beyond a doubt that 1/10 of 1% of the cost of health care came from lawsuits.

    Now how in Hades can that small amount of damages awarded to someone who has been disabled, or thrown out of work only amount to $250,000. If that is the case, according to the republicans, than lawsuits are negligible when it comes to Health Care costs. So by suggesting this aren't them under minding their own claims. But it doesn't take much to prove republicans are disgustingly stupid.

    October 11, 2009 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  21. Cedric

    I am as liberal as they come, blue through and through. But I think this is a very common sense approach to lowering costs. Just like there are caps on auto insurance payouts.

    October 11, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Rene Rigal

    I do not know a physician that is not dedicated to what is better for his patients. Everyone must understand that in evaluating patients with complex diseases and in a complex medical environment, error do happen. Nevertheless, we do have in Pennsylvania a vigorous error reducing process that has objectively decreased medical errors and consequently both morbidity and cost. In spite of this, physicians continue to practice defensive medicine to the tune of @ $50 B/year. This is $ that can be better utilized. A cap on pain and suffering makes sense, since all other expenses would be otherwise covered. This cannot be the only fix though. Physicians must continue to study, participate in vigorous error reducing processes and perhaps we should also consider specialized courts for these cases.

    October 11, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  23. Ruty

    I lost an eye because of an incompetent doctor. I was going to sue but in N.C. I could only get $250.000. You have to have two expert witnesses to say he was incompetent. They wanted $125,000 each to testify. That leaves nothing for the lawyer or victim. DO NOT CAP. I have lost an eye –have had 3 surgeries and will never recoup what I lost. The doctor is still in business and making lost of money every day.

    October 11, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. OKIE BOY

    The limit needs not be so much on the victim as it should be on the amount that lawyers can skim off the awards. Greedy lawyers are the problem, not the victims getting what is left of the settlements after the lawyers get their "fair share"!!! Put a cap on their cut and they won't bleed the system!!!.

    October 11, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  25. Lynne

    Why isn't the press looking into the outrageous costs doctors must pay the insurance companies, how much profit they are making from these policies and whether they are justified??

    October 11, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
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