Chairman of physician-owned malpractice insurance company says there is acute need for caps.
WASHINGTON – Dr. Richard Anderson, a 56-year-old oncologist from Napa, California, has been lobbying Congress to pass a law limiting "pain and suffering" damages. Anderson, who is chairman of Doctors Co., a doctor-owned malpractice insurer, argues that without damage award caps, insurance rates will continue to skyrocket and force many doctors out of practice.
A bill limiting non-economic damages passed the House earlier this year but a similar bill died in the Senate in July. The Bush administration and congressional Republicans favor caps to stem rising insurance costs but many Democrats maintain that malpractice victims deserve huge rewards.
"Liberals, whose reason for existence is to ease suffering of the downtrodden, are perfectly content to compensate a few malpractice victims at the expense of the entire medical community," said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington D.C. "Doctors all over the country are retiring early or relocating to states that cap malpractice damages because they can no longer afford the cost of malpractice insurance, while Democrats and plaintiffs\’ attorneys continue to attack anyone who supports damage caps as cruel and heartless."
Dr. Anderson, a political independent, travels to Washington every few months to lobby sympathetic politicians with the assistance of D.C. lobbying firm, Valis Associates. Recently, he met with Democrat Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska to persuade support for a bill limiting "pain and suffering" awards to $250,000. Mr. Nelson replied that the matter is not so grave that it requires a federal law.
Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are formulating a compromise that will focus solely on OBGYNs – the goal being to implement malpractice caps step by step. Dr. Anderson says it is not his preferred approach but that, since it may help generate support for malpractice caps, he supports it.
"Something must give: Either there will be malpractice caps or doctors will continue to leave their practices or move from state to state, leaving certain states with severe shortages of doctors," continued Norquist. "Malpractice victims should be compensated, but with over 80% of such cases thrown out in court and the excessive damage awards, the system benefits the few at the expense of doctors and therefore, at the expense of millions of medical patients. "