Ariz. Gov Proposes Ideas for Malpractice Reform

November 4, 2004

The position of plaintiffs’ lawyers on possible changes to Arizona laws governing medical malpractice lawsuits is partly echoed by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, an attorney on inactive status.

Napolitano said this week that capping some damages without including insurance reform wouldn’t solve the problem.

“We have to be more broad-reaching than that,” she said when asked about proposed limits on medical-malpractice lawsuits.

Napolitano said she is looking for other ways to help doctors and plans to propose legislation to increase some Arizona Health Care Cost Containment reimbursement rates to providers, particularly in rural areas where doctors can’t spread costs over large numbers of patients.

Napolitano had a civil practice focusing on litigation and appeals – including several medical-malpractice cases representing insurance companies – before being appointed U.S. attorney for Arizona in 1993. She was elected Arizona attorney general in 1998, serving one four-year term before being elected governor in 2002.

As governor, Napolitano’s role in laws on medical malpractice suits would be limited.

Napolitano earlier this year signed into law a bill negotiated by physicians and lawyers to require a certification by an expert before a medical-malpractice case can be filed.

However, referendums placed on the ballot by the Legislature do not go to the governor for signature or veto. Similarly, voter initiatives do not have to cross the governor’s desk.

Napolitano would have authority to sign or veto any bills passed by lawmakers to implement voter-approved constitutional changes though.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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