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SMS's Turney: Med-Mal Cap Essential to Hold Down Costs

Want to hold down the costs of health care that often hold back economic growth?
Then quickly reinstate the cap on certain medical malpractice caps, says the CEO of the State Medical Society, Dr. Susan Turney. She urges lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle to agree on the ``best cap that we can get and the lowest number we can get so we can avoid'' increased cost and access problems.
Turney and others say they already know of situations where doctors are about to leave or not come to the state because of the uncertainty. That will affect health care access, in addition to cost, she argues.
Since the state Supreme Court struck down the old cap last summer as unconstitutional and arbitrary, health care and insurance insiders have been warning of a lawyer heyday. They thought they had an answer with AB 766's cap on noneconomic damages ($450,000 for adults, $550,000 for children). But Doyle stamped it with a veto, reasoning that the newly proposed limits weren't different enough from what the Supreme Court had struck down.
Now, Capitol sources are suggesting bipartisan action on a bill with a $750,000 cap could be in the offing.
But Turney says if the number is too big, it could drain the state's Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund.
Some observers find it ironic that the Supreme Court ruling doesn't apply to Wisconsin physicians employed by government. They can only be sued for a total of $250,000, despite the July Supreme Court ruling. Furthermore, they are not required to pay fees to the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund. The timeframe for bringing suit is also shorter for patients who see government-employed physicians. Patients of government doctors have 180 days to give notice of a claim from the time the injury is discovered, while in the private sector patients have as many as five years. But a Wisconsin Medical Society spokesman, Steve Busalacchi, says "the Society is only interested in re-establishing a cap on noneconomic damages for private practice doctors."

See the WisPolitics.com/Mediasite webcast of Feb. 15 with Turney.
See more from the Wisconsin Medical Society on this issue: http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/
See other installments in the Wisconsin REALTORS Association-sponsored ``Economy in Transition'' series:

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