Government

Illinois tort reform caps damages

Grassroots efforts by doctors helped win over public opinion, the state medical society says.

By Mike Norbut — Posted June 13, 2005

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

After years of working for tort reform, Illinois physicians stand poised to receive some relief, as lawmakers approved legislation that would set a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits.

The cap, which will not increase with inflation, is the centerpiece of the bill, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich is expected to sign. The legislation also calls for higher standards for expert witness testimony and a stronger certificate-of-merit clause. In addition, the bill would set a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages for hospitals.

While it's not the $250,000 cap consistently sought by the AMA and states fighting for tort reform, the measure is a "significant step in the right direction," said Craig A. Backs, MD, president of the Illinois State Medical Society.

"It's safe to say we would not have written the package as it is coming out, but the legislative process is one of compromise," Dr. Backs said. "I would encourage physicians in Illinois to take a serious look at this as a total package. We feel very good about this."

"The momentum came from the perception and the reality that physicians in Illinois saw no hope," Dr. Backs said. "They were leaving the state when they had the opportunity because of medical liability."

Illinois is one of 20 states the AMA has declared to be in crisis because of rising liability insurance premiums.

Kevin Conway, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Assn., said the bill will reward insurance companies, but no one else. "They have not said they will reduce or roll back rates one cent with the passage of this bill," he said.

Once the measure becomes law, a court challenge is virtually guaranteed. The Illinois Supreme Court has twice struck down caps on noneconomic damages, the most recent ruling occurring in 1997.

But Dr. Backs was confident this had a better chance of withstanding such a challenge. "I think we've done the best we possibly can to address what's been pointed out by the court in the past," he said.

Back to top


ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISE HERE


Featured
Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story


Read story

Goodbye

American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story


Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story


Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story


Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story


Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story


Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story


Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story