States push medical liability reform, as Bush tones down rhetoric on it

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A new South Carolina law extends liability protections to healthcare providers and also caps non-economic damages in medical liability lawsuits at $350,000. On Monday, Gov. Mark Sandford signed the measure, which pushes the non-economic damages cap to $1.05 million for multi-defendant suits.

In contrast to that and other states' movement, the Washington Post reported Sunday that President Bush "rarely mentions" medical malpractice in speeches now. He had made it a hot topic in his re-election campaign and recent state of the union address.

Despite gaining four seats in the Senate, Republicans don't appear to have enough support to pass a bill that "fits the president's preferences," the newspaper reported. That is partly due to some Republican Senators' opposition to such measures. The House has passed tort reform bills repeatedly but the Senate has always declined to follow suit in recent years.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who supports Bush's proposal, has "tacitly acknowledged" changes to a proposed bill are needed to pass it. He has said he would consider "all kinds of options," including instituting a higher limit on damages.