The private University of Miami is asking Florida lawmakers to impose a $200,000 cap on malpractice awards against its medical school and doctors practicing at the public Jackson Memorial Hospital.
As a public agency with sovereign immunity, Jackson is protected by a $200,000 cap, but its 700 doctors employed by the university are not. The university paid more than $50 million on malpractice claims last year, up from $32 million the year before.
The university says it will be forced to change its decades-old relationship with the Miami teaching hospital and trauma center if it doesn't get a cap.
University President Donna Shalala, who was President Clinton's HHS secretary, is working the phones to push the malpractice plan.
The state Legislature passed limits on pain-and-suffering malpractice awards last year but rejected blanket caps in its attempt to restore the insurance market and stabilize premiums, which many doctors said were threatening their practices.
The school initially proposed applying the cap only to lawsuits by indigent patients but now wants it to cover everyone treated by the university staff.
Senate President Jim King had told a benefactor that he would do everything he could to pass a cap covering indigent patients, but the extension to insured and paying patients has drawn questions.
Doctors at other hospitals are calling it favoritism, and Florida's trial lawyers are outraged.
"They want to be a private institution and have the benefit of state employees, and they can't do that," said Bruce Rogow, a constitutional law scholar at the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center.