N.J. Legislature Far Apart on Med-Mal Reforms

July 3, 2003

While New Jersey legislators managed to agree on an auto insurance reform package this session, they seem to be as far apart as ever on the adoption of reforms aimed at solving what the state’s doctors and health workers have termed a serious crisis.

According to a report from the New Jersey Star Ledger, the Assembly passed a provision, as part of the state’s budget bill, which provides for some relief for doctors by establishing a fund that would help defray some of their skyrocketing med mal insurance costs. It would also require greater oversight of the medical malpractice insurance industry by the state’s insurance Commissioner, and tightens rules on lawsuit filing dates and expert witnesses.

However, the Assembly proposals are very different from a Senate bill, passed in March, which included limits on jury awards.

While the Assembly’s bill contains no provisions for “capping” damage awards, it does have the support of Governor James McGreevey, who has indicated that he doesn’t feel that imposing caps would solve the problems the doctors are facing, and favors the subsidy solution endorsed by the legislature.

The problem, which has been accentuated by work stoppages and protests, is still a long way from resolution,. As the Star-Ledger noted “every seat in the Legislature” is up for election, and therefore the lawmakers have no plans to for another session until after the election in November.

Doctors groups faulted the Assembly for failing to consider a massive amount of evidence their organizations had submitted to support their demands for caps, and have promised more demonstrations and work stoppages.

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