A bill intended to lower medical liability insurance rates for physicians was approved by the Connecticut Legislature Wednesday, but stopped short of including a cap on noneconomic damages.
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has not announced whether she will sign the bill, which includes litigation reforms, insurance regulations and physician oversight measures. The bill passed the House Wednesday in a 105-43 vote after winning approval in the Senate by a 27-9 vote Monday. An amendment to cap noneconomic damages at $1 million for hospitals and $500,000 for physicians was defeated in the House by a 87-61 vote.
The Connecticut State Medical Society expressed doubt that the legislation would work as intended without the caps on noneconomic damages.
"There's nothing in there that will help doctors," said Tim Norbeck, executive director of the medical society. "We don't think this addresses the issues, and the legislators -- in their hearts -- must know this."
Because of all the activity and negotiations leading up to the bill and his disappointment in the final product, Norbeck said the measure was like a "legislative elephant giving birth to a mouse."
The bill would require:
The bill would also make expressions of sympathy by healthcare providers inadmissible as evidence in lawsuits.
Rick Newman, president of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, disagreed with Norbeck's prediction that the bill would not reduce premiums or stabilize rising insurance rates.
"There is some prior approval (for a) rate increase in there and that will go a long way to stabilize rates in the state," Newman said, but he added that he understood Norbeck's disappointment.
"I'm not sure if this has given as much relief to doctors as I would have hoped," he said.
Norbeck said the medical society's goals were to reduce premiums and stabilize the state's crisis situation.
"This bill does neither," he said. "We've gone from eight (medical liability) insurers to three, and this does very little, if anything, to resolve the crisis."