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Republican medical malpractice crisis report request weakens party’s stance

In July 2003, Democrats successfully blocked legislation that would have limited pain and suffering damages to $250,000 and capped punitive damages at the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages. The bill, had it gone through, would have been applicable to medical malpractice suits against doctors, hospitals or health care providers, and manufacturer, distributor, or seller of a medical product.

Still, the Republicans are planning on battling for medical malpractice caps this fall. The party may find its’ argument to be weaker than before after three House Republicans supporting limited medical malpractice damage awards requested a General Accounting Office (GAO) study. The GAO study found that nine states, five considered to be crisis states by the American Medical Association (AMA), were not in fact having the medical malpractice liability problems that the Republican party and the AMA have been claiming.

The Congressional investigators instead found that there were “localized but not widespread access problems,” however adding that these particular instances were often in rural locations where keeping physicians has always been a problem. The investigators also found that the reports of physicians moving to other states, retiring, or closing practices in response to the “crisis” were in fact not accurate. Despite the result of the GAO report, and the press release issued by watchdog group Public Citizen calling on Congress and state legislatures “abandon efforts to take away patients’ legal rights,” the Republicans are expected to continue pushing for medical malpractice caps.

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