Debate shifting after Senate kills tort bills
For the fifth time in three years, the Senate voted down tort reform proposals that would have eased burdens on nursing home operators and other healthcare providers.
The Senate defeated the "Medical Care Access Protection Act of 2006" (S. 22), sponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) 48 to 42. The bill would have capped total non-economic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $750,000.
Rising liability insurance premiums and per-bed loss costs are a growing problem for long-term care operators.
"We believe Senator Ensign's legislative approach would have effectively addressed our profession's growing problems related to the greater frequency and higher costs associated with litigation," said Bruce Yarwood, president and chief executive officer of the American Health Care Association.
Also in May, the Senate defeated a similar bill (S. 23) sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum
(R-PA). Both bills had advanced without committee consideration and each failed to move to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Some observers feel future tort reform debate will now shift from jury award limits to aspects such as specialized medical courts and apologies for errors.