Oregon Proposes Medical Malpractice Cap

Oregon legislators have proposed capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims against health care providers at $500,000. House Bill 3228, introduced by Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas, stipulates that the cap would be automatically adjusted in subsequent years based on the consumer price index.

“Despite the passage of health care laws at the state and federal levels, overall costs and insurance premiums continue to rise for small businesses, individuals and families,” Rep. Thompson said, although he noted that but said effective medical liability reform isn’t limited to capping non-economic damages. “If the Governor and Legislature are truly interested in cost containment, we must address the costs of malpractice insurance, defensive medicine and excessive litigation in our health care system.”

Rep. Thompson also has proposed HB 3519, which he said would help to lower costs by establishing legal medical panels to review claims against health care providers before they proceed to trial. Panel members, consisting of retired judges, health care practitioners, provider representatives and attorneys, would review claims, hear testimony and submit findings to the circuit court. The panels would be managed by the state court system and funded by a surcharge on providers.

“Medical legal panels can help prevent frivolous lawsuits from going to trial,” Thompson said. “They would also ensure that patients who’ve been legitimately harmed are adequately compensated and cared for. Because all proceedings and findings are confidential, panels will help the courts make accurate determinations and deliver justice accordingly.”

Thompson said House Republicans will consider and support multiple solutions for medical liability reform as a way to make health care more affordable.

“According to the Oregon Medical Liability Task Force, malpractice insurance administration and defense litigation alone cost $33.6 million in 2008,” he said. “We can’t have a discussion about health care reform or cost containment without addressing an issue that threatens the ability of providers to practice in Oregon.”