A coalition of provider groups, led by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and the American Medical Association, began the first phase of a $1 million advertising campaign last week to urge passage of federal malpractice reform legislation.
The groups began the campaign April 18 by targeting eight key states with a $500,000 television ad campaign. That first phase will run until early this week. After that initial phase, the groups plan to spend an additional $500,000 in the Washington area targeting senators who return to work this week.
The Senate is expected to make malpractice reform legislation its first priority when it resumes deliberations.
The ads are being funded primarily by several for-profit chains including Columbia, Quorum Health Group, Tenet Healthcare Corp. and Charter Medical Corp., which have committed more than half of the approximately $1 million the coalition expects to spend on the ads.
In addition, the AMA pledged $150,000, and the American Hospital Association contributed $100,000.
Thomas Scully, president of the Federation of American Health Systems, said the ad campaign was designed to offset the political clout of groups representing trial lawyers, which Scully said were spending "millions and millions of dollars to try to scare the hell out of everybody."
Trial lawyers and consumer groups have opposed tort reform legislation, including malpractice reforms, which they say would reduce victims' rights.
The medical groups are seeking several malpractice reforms, the most controversial being a cap on noneconomic damages of $250,000 per incident.
Hospitals also are pushing for the elimination of "joint and several" liability, which allows plaintiffs to sue a hospital for large damage awards even though the hospital may have been only partially responsible for the malpractice incident.