With a special session on malpractice reform due to end at midnight tonight, the Florida Senate is still debating a bill for a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages, which Florida physicians and Gov. Jeb Bush say is unacceptable.
On Wednesday, the Florida House passed a $250,000 cap, which is acceptable to providers, says Bill Bell, general counsel of the Florida Hospital Association.
But Bell, speaking by cell phone this morning from the Senate chamber, says his group objects to the Senate's $500,000 level and the fact that it is a "soft cap" making an exception for catastrophic injuries.
A Senate proposal would put a $2 million limit on that soft cap, but "that won't solve anything," he adds.
Bell says if the Senate is not finished at the end of the session, it could vote to extend the session. But in any case, he says, Bush has pledged to extend the session to resolve the issue.
Meanwhile, Florida's largest medical liability insurer, First Professionals Insurance Co., Jacksonville, says its pledge to reduce premiums by an average of 20% if a $250,000 cap were passed would not apply to a $500,000 soft cap.
On the other hand, "we stand prepared to keep our pledge if the medical liability reform plan you presented becomes law," wrote Robert White, First Professionals president, in a letter sent Wednesday to Bush.