The 20 states that limit noneconomic damages in medical liability cases average about 12% more physicians per capita than those without a cap of some type, according to a study by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In 1970, before any state had passed limits on noneconomic damages, there was no statistically significant difference among states in their per-capita supply of physicians, the agency said. However, by 2000, states with caps averaged about 135 physicians per 100,000 county residents compared with 120 physicians per 100,000 county residents for states without such limits, the study found. Nevertheless, three states with among the strictest limits on noneconomic damages -- Indiana, Louisiana and New Mexico -- all have fewer than 120 doctors per 100,000 county residents. In a written statement, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said, "This study confirms and quantifies the association between reasonable limits in medical lawsuits and the supply of physicians available to treat patients who need them." The Senate is expected to begin considering a national limit on noneconomic damages, also known as pain and suffering. -- by Michael Romano
Caps on damages tied to greater supply of doctors
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