Illinois state lawmakers pushed ahead Wednesday with a plan to rein in high jury awards in medical malpractice lawsuits that doctors blame for their soaring insurance rates.
A House committee voted 12-2 for the proposal to cap noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering that malpractice victims can win in court. The proposal also includes protecting doctors' personal assets in lawsuits and shielding hospitals from some legal claims.
Supporters said the changes are essential to lower costs that have driven dozens of doctors out of their practices in Illinois.
"It's a real bitter pill for many of us, but it's necessary," said Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville), the bill's sponsor.
But as the measure heads to the House floor for a vote, lawmakers and lobbyists predicted it would undergo a makeover amid a bitter fight.
Opponents including trial lawyers and some Democrats, blasted the proposal as unfair to victims of malpractice and unconstitutional.
"If this bill ever becomes law, doctors and hospitals probably won't need insurance," said Keith Hebeisen of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, who dubbed the measure the "wrongdoer protection act."