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Congress passes medical tort reform

By By Chip Pickering / guest columnist
Oct. 6, 2002
WASHINGTON  Last week, the Mississippi Legislature recessed after an unsuccessful 19 days of a special session called to enact medical malpractice lawsuit reform.
On the same day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4600, the HEALTH Act, which would implement a federal medical malpractice lawsuit reform plan.
I have supported federal legislation in Congress because this is a national problem that is especially critical in Mississippi. This legislation, which I co-sponsored and supported, did pass in the House.
It would place no restrictions on economic damages (medical expenses, lost wages), but would place a reasonable $250,000 limit on non-economic damages. "Punitive" damages would be limited to $250,000 or twice the amount of the economic damages, whichever is greater.
Furthermore, people will continue to have their day in court to make certain negligent parties are held responsible for any wrongdoing. In addition, the legislation created a "fair share rule" which ensured that no one party is unfairly held liable for another's negligence. This provision helps eliminate the incentive for frivolous lawsuits filed against those with minimal or no responsibility.
The state of Mississippi is in a crisis  doctors and nurses are leaving, clinics are closing, prescription drug costs are rising, and our loved ones' health is at risk. The lack of reasonable lawsuit reform affects every aspect of our health care system. It makes treatment and medicine more expensive and less available, particularly in rural counties.
It also clips the wings of any community hoping to expand its economic base, because industry will not come to a county that cannot provide quality health care.