Medical malpractice reform is in the hands of the Senate after the House passed its reform bill today by a vote of 229-196. The Senate is expected to have developed its own reform bill by month's end. The House plan would cap noneconomic damages at $250,000 but set no limits on actual damages. It resembles malpractice legislation that passed the House last year. In recent months, many doctors across the country have complained aggressively about high malpractice insurance premiums, which they say are forcing them to relocate or leave the profession.
In other legislative news, a bill that would protect providers who report medical errors passed the House last night by a vote of 418-6; it now moves to the Senate for consideration. The bill -- sponsored by Rep. Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.) -- would encourage the reporting of medical errors by banning hospitals from disciplining employees who report errors and prohibiting patient-safety organizations from taking action against providers in connection with such reports. Some $25 million would be allocated in both fiscal 2004 and 2005 for information-technology grants to providers. The proposal may encounter trouble in the Senate, where some lawmakers are concerned that voluntary reporting won't be effective. -- by Tony Fong and Jeff Tieman