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Fort Worth Star Telegram
Feb 20, 2003
by JOHN KIRSCH; Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Critics say bill won't lower premiums
MALPRACTICE: Texas State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, and Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston, offer legislation to end "lawsuit lottery" by capping damages.AUSTIN: Limiting damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits is unlikely to lower insurance premiums, a California consumer activist told Texas lawmakers Wednesday.
Harvey Rosenfield of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights told a House panel that limiting damages to $250,000 would probably not solve the insurance crisis that Texas physicians want lawmakers to address.
"If you want to lower premiums, you've got to regulate rates," Rosenfield said.
He was the author of Proposition 103, which was approved by California voters in 1988 and froze insurance rates.
His comments came in testimony before the House Civil Practices Committee on House Bill 3, which would limit damages in malpractice lawsuits.
The author of the bill and chairman of the committee, state Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston, said it would end the "lawsuit lottery" by capping damages.
Nixon's bill is similar to a measure introduced in the Senate by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, which is also designed to address physicians' concerns about malpractice premiums.
Spencer Berthelsen, a Houston doctor who spoke on behalf of the Texas Medical Association, said doctors are practicing "defensive medicine" in response to steeply higher insurance premiums.
"It really is a crisis. If it's not resolved, it will and does jeopardize our ability to provide necessary medical care to the citizens of Texas," Berthelesen told the committee.
But Rosenfield said the bill would unfairly limit the amount of damages that plaintiffs could collect while doing little to lower premiums.
"Discussion about limiting peoples' right to sue should be completely divorced from the issue of whether to lower insurance premiums," he said.
The House Public Health Committee also approved a bill designed to give the State Board of Medical Examiners more authority to discipline bad doctors. The Senate version of the bill was approved Tuesday by a Senate panel.
ONLINE: Legislature, www.capitol.state.tx.us
Lieutenant governor, www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/LtGov./ LtGov.htm
Speaker of the House, www.house.state.tx.us/speaker/
John Kirsch (817) 685-3805 firstname.lastname@example.org
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