Wyoming Committees Work on Special Session Bills

June 25, 2004

More than 30 bills have been drawn up for consideration in July’s special session on medical malpractice insurance.

State House Speaker Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs, said he expects more to come, although many bills are slight variations of the same theme.

Two legislative committees with 28 lawmakers held a joint meeting in Sheridan on June 22 and 23 to take testimony and work on legislation in advance of the special session.

Parady said the session will consider only bills that come out of the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee and Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee or the Joint Appropriations Committee. All the committees will meet again the last week in June.

On June 23, lawmakers heard testimony from insurance companies that Wyoming doctors face higher malpractice insurance rates than other states because Wyoming doesn’t cap damage awards in lawsuits.

Doctors argue high insurance premiums make it hard for them to continue practicing in Wyoming.

Richard Anderson, chairman and chief executive officer for The Doctors Company, said doctors would likely see a reduction in their medical malpractice insurance premiums if the Legislature put a $250,000 camp on non-economic damages in malpractice lawsuits.

The committee reviewed several proposed bills and joint resolutions designed to address the problems.

One was a bill that would require health care facilities to report medical safety events to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Joint resolutions proposed included:

Several versions of an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would remove the prohibition against limiting non-economic damages when a health care provider causes a death or injury.

Legislation that would establish a revolving investment fund that would be used for loans or loan guarantees for health care enterprises.

A constitutional amendment to allow the state to lend, give credit or make donations to help health care providers.

Legislation that would regulate the amount of attorney fees in civil actions and allow juries to award attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party.

Creation of a state health care errors commission.

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