South Carolina Gov. Sanford Signs Med-Mal Bill into Law

April 8, 2005

Calling it another “business-friendly step” on tort reform, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has signed into law S. 83, a medical malpractice reform bill that will reportedly help control skyrocketing malpractice premiums and increase access to health care in South Carolina.

The bill places a cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice suits, adjusted for inflation, and a multi-defendant cap of $1.05 million. In signing the bill at Roper Hospital in downtown Charleston, the governor praised State Legislators in both parties for their efforts in getting the bill to his desk.

“We’re starting to take some long-overdue steps that will help make us more competitive as a state,” Gov. Sanford said. “In the past two weeks we’ve made significant upgrades to both our business and our medical malpractice tort reform laws – improvements that are going to have a direct return in terms of jobs, capital investment and access to health care for our citizens. I’d give particular credit to my friends in the Legislature for their work in keeping South Carolina competitive on these critical fronts.”

In the core specialties of general surgery, internal medicine and OB-GYN from 2001 to 2002, malpractice premiums in states with low caps increased by just 10%, compared to 29% in states with more limited reforms. In South Carolina, medical malpractice premiums for OB-GYN doctors have increased by 378% since 1999, a major factor in escalating health care costs. Doctors throughout the state have reportedly been forced to re-evaluate their services in light of ballooning liability costs. Recently in Oconee County, for example, only two physicians reportedly deliver babies compared with 11 just four years ago.

“Given that we’ve got the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation, these reforms are absolutely critical in keeping and attracting jobs and investment that might go elsewhere,” Gov. Sanford said. “Now we’ve got to couple these efforts with job-creating reforms like income tax relief that will have a direct impact on raising income levels here in South Carolina.”

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