Democrats thwart malpractice bill
Democrats in the House again defeated an attempt by Republicans to revive a bill aimed at reforming the state's medical malpractice laws.
The reforms are backed by Gov. Linda Lingle, who urged lawmakers this week to keep the measure alive.
Republicans say the reforms in Senate Bill 3279, House Draft 1, are needed to stabilize medical malpractice premiums in Hawaii and keep physicians, particularly specialists, from getting priced out of the state.
"The Legislature is almost over and the problem that this bill seeks to remove has not gotten any better," said Minority Floor Leader Colleen Meyer (R, Laie-Kahaluu). "It's something that we've been aware of -- a statewide problem -- for many years."
Democrats say the bill tries to address access to care and the cost of premiums, but it is too narrow in scope. They plan to study the issue to try and come up with a better approach next session.
"There's a multitude of approaches that we need to take," said House Judiciary Vice Chairman Blake Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa). "This singular approach ... is not sufficient."
Among other changes, the bill would:
» Place a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damage awards in medical tort actions against obstetricians, obstetrician-gynecologists and trauma care providers.
» Establish a sliding scale for attorney's fees based upon the judgment or settlement.
» Eliminate joint and several liability for economic damages.
» Allow joint and several liability for noneconomic damages where a health-care provider's degree of negligence is 25 percent or more.
This was the second time this year that House Republicans unsuccessfully attempted to revive the bill.