This vote was on an amendment by Jon Ensign, R-Nev., that would have limited plaintiff attorney fees in medical malpractice suits to 33.3 percent of the first $150,000 of whatever settlement is reached, plus 25 percent of any amount in excess. The amendment was offered to a bill that would overhaul the health insurance system, create a public health insurance option and impose requirements on insurance companies.
Republicans argue that medical malpractice claims are driving up the cost of health care by leaps and bounds, and that some restraints on plaintiffs’ attorney fees are necessary.
“The reason that malpractice litigation reform is not in the bill is simple, plain, and known to every Member of this body because it is opposed by the plaintiff trial lawyers who are big supporters of Democratic Members of the body and the President. That is true,” said Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats are also concerned about medical malpractice lawsuits, and noted that the underlying heath care overhaul bill has provisions intended to help reduce medical negligence and other errors.
“We are looking for ways to reduce any number of lawsuits that may not be necessary,” Durbin said. “Unfortunately, the amendment offered by the Senator from Nevada is not a good amendment to achieve that goal because what the Senator from Nevada does is puts together a formula for compensating the lawyers who represent the victims of medical malpractice and reduces the amount of money that is available. I want every single dollar we can bring to the victims of medical malpractice, but the fact is, in our country today, most victims are not wealthy, and the only way they can bring a lawsuit is if the lawyer says it is a contingency fee. If you, the victim, win, then I will be paid. If you lose, I am not paid. It is the only way many people of modest means can get into a courthouse.”
By a vote of 32-66, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present,, 27 voted for the amendment and 12 voted against it. All but four Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward without language that would have capped plaintiff attorney fees in medical malpractice suits.