Medical-malpractice reform is close to reality in Illinois, awaiting only the signature of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The Illinois Senate, in a 36-22 vote shortly after midnight, approved a reform package that includes a cap on noneconomic damages, online publication of physician disciplinary histories, standards for expert witnesses and legal protection for physician apologies to patients.
Noneconomic damage awards will be capped at $500,000 in cases against physicians and $1 million in cases against hospitals.
The House approved the bill 68-46 on Monday.
Blagojevich, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign it.
Both the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Hospital Association supported the measure.
State Rep. Mark Beaubien Jr., a Republican, said the bill contains provisions that Republicans have supported for years but that have only recently gained the support of Democrats -- especially in southern Illinois counties that have been losing physicians.
Democrats in those counties must be re-elected for the party to maintain its narrow majority in the House.
"This is all about five southern Democratic House members who are under tremendous fire and (state House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat) has to protect them," Beaubien said.
"If Madigan wants a bill to go through, it will go through."