- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday introduced a medical malpractice insurance reform bill that essentially kills legislation proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Mrs. Cropp’s “Medical Malpractice Insurance Reform Amendment Act of 2005” focuses on changing insurance regulations to stem the rising malpractice premiums that doctors have said are driving them out of the city. The bill already has 10 co-sponsors in the 13-member council.

Mr. Williams’ plan would limit most jury payouts for pain and suffering in malpractice lawsuits to $250,000 against physicians and to $500,000 against hospitals. The legislation has no co-sponsors and was killed in the council last year.

“I don’t think his plan will resolve the issues of medical malpractice in the District of Columbia,” Mrs. Cropp, at-large Democrat, told The Washington Times last week. “If you look at the District of Columbia, I think it is more of an insurance problem.”

She is urging member David A. Catania, at-large independent, to consider her legislation in his task force on the issue.

Mrs. Cropp’s bill would:

• Require the insurance commissioner to approve proposed rate increases exceeding a certain percentage.

• Authorize the commissioner to consider an insurer’s surplus in rate-making, if the surplus is “unreasonably large.”

• Authorize refunds to physicians who have paid “excessive” premiums.

• Allow doctors and consumers to challenge rate increases.

• Allow doctors to obtain rate quotes from multiple insurers.

Williams spokesman Vincent Morris yesterday said the Cropp bill shows the amount of influence trial lawyers have over the council.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “The mayor is believes very strongly that in order to have meaningful medical-malpractice reform you need some caps on punitive damages, and the mayor still believes there should not be a cap on economic damages.”

John H. Niles Jr., chairman of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia’s Medical Liability Reform Task Force said he hopes the council combines the best of the two plans, including Mr. Williams’ provisions for patient safety and a shorter statute of limitations.

“I don’t think what Mrs. Cropp is recommending should stand alone,” he said.

The Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, a group of about 500 trial lawyers, has opposed the mayor’s plan, saying it would be unfair to patients.

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