States would have through fiscal 2004 to spend unused State Children's Health Insurance Program funds under a bill introduced by Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) The proposal would extend the availability of $1.2 billion allocated for 1998 and 1999 and $1.5 billion allocated for 2000 and 2001. States that have not spent their 2000-2001 funds would retain half of the money, while the other half would be distributed to states that have spent their allotment. Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and John Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) are expected to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.
In other Washington news, Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) reintroduced a bill that would cap pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice suits at $250,000 and punitive damages at $250,000 or twice the award for economic damages, whichever is greater. Generally, the statute of limitations would be set at three years. There would be no limit on economic damages. The bill, modeled on California law, failed to pass Congress last year. It is supported by several provider associations including the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. -- by Tony Fong