LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- President Bush focused on a rash of what he calls "frivolous and junk" lawsuits on a visit Monday to Baptist Health Medical Center.
Bush told a crowd of about 600 medical professionals that unnecessary malpractice suits against doctors are a key factor driving up the overall price of healthcare.
"We live in a litigation culture, and doctors fear what they tell patients will be used against them in a court of law," Bush said. "The healthcare system looks like a giant lottery, and the trial lawyers always have the winning ticket," he said.
White House spokesman Taylor Gross said Bush chose Arkansas as the forum for his speech because the state Legislature, in regular session last year, enacted a limited medical liability cap. Bush focused on problems particular to Arkansas and said more needed to be done on the state level to keep Arkansas physicians from pursuing early retirement or leaving the state to corral their insurance costs.
Bush noted that insurance costs are especially prohibitive for doctors who are willing to work in poor areas like the Arkansas Delta, where insurance companies consider malpractice claims a greater risk.
Bush is pursuing a federal reform law to replace a haphazard patchwork of state laws, Gross said. Bush said his bill has been "stuck in the Senate."
The Arkansas tort reform bill limits damages in medical malpractice and other civil lawsuits. The bill sets the cap on punitive damages at $250,000 or three times compensatory damages, not to exceed $1 million, whichever is greater.
Bush called for a hard cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages while allowing patients to recover costs if they have a legitimate complaint.