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MEDICAL PRODUCT/PROVIDER LIABILITY BILL WILL BE INTRODUCED IN "NEXT FEW WEEKS"

Executive Summary

A medical liability bill that includes both products and providers under its umbrella is expected to be introduced "in the next few weeks," Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association annual meeting April 30. "Several months ago it occurred to me and others that someone ought to start looking at the possibility of addressing both provider and products liability in a single bill," McCain said. The Arizona Republican said he believes that the "liability crisis is facing the whole health care system [and consequently] not just providers should be addressed." He noted that he has been working on the proposal with Sens. Danforth (R-Mo.) and Durenberger (R- Minn.). The proposal "incorporates the ideas of many members [of Congress] who have been active in this area, including Sen. Hatch [R-Utah]," McCain reported. "Increasingly," he contended, "products are not coming to market due to the crisis. If they ultimately do become available, they are much delayed and much costlier." The Arizona Republican's legislation would establish uniform standards for medical liability cases; cap non-economic damages at $ 350,000; limit attorneys' fees to 25% on the first $ 150,000 of damages and 15% on the balance above $ 150,000; provide additional protection to OB/GYNs; establish uniform disciplinary reforms, including strengthening the role of state licensing and peer review boards; assist community health centers in forming risk- retention pools; and provide special protection from large damage awards to medical product and device manufacturers who go through the federal premarket approval process. McCain said he is still "working out just what the specific tort reforms would mean for products." He predicted that the legislation will likely have a tough road ahead. "As you can well appreciate," he told the drug manufacturers group, "if we actually introduce this proposal, we are likely to have a major war on our hands with respect to at least one group that is economically dependent on this system," trial lawyers. The Arizona Republican, who was assigned to the Senate Special Committee on Aging in February, was making his first appearance at a PMA annual meeting. He had not drafted his product/provider liability legislation as of May 3. McCain's health aide, who is working on the measure, is David McIntyre.
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