Arizona News

Arizona medical malpractice limits may be on the horizon

In two years, Arizona voters may have to decide if limiting medical malpractice awards will be beneficial to the state. One week ago, roughly 2,400 physicians rallied in Phoenix, supporting a solution for high insurance premiums. Executive Vice President of the Arizona Medical Association (AMA) said there is a strong likelihood statewide physician groups will ask the Legislature in its next regular session to include a tort reform ballot measure for the 2006 ballot.

As seen nationwide, a tort reform measure would likely put the state physicians against the legal community. So far, proposed Arizona medical malpractice provisions the AMA has been considering are caps on damages and the ability to pay damages over time instead of as a lump sum. In 1994, Arizona voters rejected proposed tort reform provisions by 3-2 margins.

The Arizona Trial Lawyers Association president believes Arizona physicians have been misled into thinking tort reform will bring down the costs of medical malpractice premiums, instead of considering insurance reform. Pointing out some states with damage caps that pay higher rates than Arizona, the president says insurance reform could include requiring insurers to justify rate increases to state regulators. Tort reform placing caps on non-economic damages, according to plaintiff lawyers, do nothing more than hurt the most vulnerable people in society, including children, non-working spouses and the elderly.

The trial association hopes physicians allow time to see if a new law enacted this year intended to weed out frivolous lawsuits against health care professionals is effective before proposing other changes.

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