The House Speaker calls it the most important health issue facing Missourians, and it’s not whether to expand or reform Medicaid.
House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) says when caps were put on how much courts could award for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits in 2005, doctors stopped leaving and started coming to the state, the cost of care in Missouri decreased and the health care industry was bolstered. He says the Supreme Court decision that struck down those caps in July 2012 leaves doctors vulnerable again.
“We’re just now in the first year or so after this decision was made. We’re going to see medical malpractice premiums rise in our state, which is going to incentivize doctors, nurses and hospital administrators to not invest in Missouri and not to be here.”
Jones has asked doctors at the Jefferson City Medical Group to help him make his case. Doctor Rich Jennett is the President of JCMG, which he says nearly closed before caps were put in place.
“We were having all sorts of abusive lawsuits. Our malpractice premiums were rising at a rate that was unsustainable,” says Jennett. “Then in 2004, 2005 we actually got to the point where we might have had to close the doors of Jefferson City Medical Group because we could not get insurance.”
Jones says several House Republicans are looking at the medical malpractice issue, so he doesn’t know what proposal or proposals will be put forward. Last year the House passed a bill but it didn’t advance in the Senate, and he hopes for the issue to get more attention there this year.
He also suggests the issue might be put to Missourians to decide.
“We can look at a statutory fix if our governor wants to show some leadership on this issue. If he does not, we may have to take this issue directly to the voters of the state of Missouri in the form of a constitutional fix.”
Opponents say cap deny juries the ability to award plaintiffs the amounts those juries think they are due.