Arizona’s House on April 7 gave preliminary approval to a medical malpractice bill after defeating an amendment that would have repealed some of its provisions if doctors’ insurance premiums rose above a certain level.
Formal House passage would return the bill, already passed by the Senate, to that chamber to consider the House’s deletion of a provision to make it easier for insurance defense lawyers to question health providers and see records.
One provision of the bill (SB 1036) would let doctors apologize and offer condolences to patients and their families without fear of having the statements held against them in court.
Another provision would tighten requirements for the credentials of expert witnesses testifying in court.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, (D-Phoenix), said that provision requiring expertise in the same specialty area as that of a doctor being sued would mean only abortion providers could provide testimony in a case involving an abortion provider.
The House defeated an amendment to have the changes repeal automatically in three years if doctors’ insurance premiums exceed the Phoenix area’s inflation rate.
Rep. Phil Lopes, (D-Tucson), said his amendment would test whether the bill would actually help save money for doctors burdened by rising malpractice premiums.
Rep. Doug Quelland, (R-Phoenix), opposed Lopes’ amendment, saying there are other lawsuit-related factors that drive some doctors out of practice or the state.
The bill was supported by physicians, hospitals and business lobbies. The Arizona Trial Lawyers Association opposed it.
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