New Jersey News

New Jersey Legislators Approve Medical Malpractice Reform Bill

New Jersey lawmakers worked on Monday to rewrite insurance regulations in an attempt to cut costs for medical malpractice insurance. Voting 46 to 17, with 16 abstentions, the State Assembly approved a complete overhauls that would aim to reduce insurance premiums and cut down on the number of medical malpractice lawsuits. The measure will requires Senate approval and would then have to be signed into law by Governor James E. McGreevey.

The measure would require that doctors, chiropractors, and dentists pay a $50 annual license fee, and all employers would pay a new $3 tax per worker. These monies would create a $90 million fund to aid doctors and hospitals in paying insurance premiums for the next three years. The bill would establish tougher guidelines for the process of filing malpractice lawsuits, and would give judges more freedom to control "runaway" jury verdicts.

This bill has been several years in the making, with various versions debated in both the Assembly and the Senate.

"It is time for us to move on and that is the commitment we have made," said Assemblyman Joseph J. Roberts, D-Camden. "This is about doctors in New Jersey that face real problems every day."

Republicans claim that the measure does little to actually help doctors, and protested for over an hour. The Medical Society of New Jersey also claimed that the bill falls short expectations, as it does not establish limits on jury awards to malpractice victims for pain and suffering. The group does support the bill however.

"We see strides being made in expert witness criteria, shorter statute of limitations for birth injuries and affidavits of noninvolvement for physicians," said Mark T. Olesnick, the medical society's president.

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