The speaker of the Missouri House is pushing lawmakers to restore caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
A 2005 Missouri law created a $350,000 cap on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering. But that cap was tossed out in 2012 by the Missouri Supreme Court. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, surrounded by a group of medical professionals and lawmakers Thursday in Jefferson City, said restoring the caps will be one of his top priorities this year.
“Unless we act, we're encouraging health-care costs to increase (and) for health-care quality to decline," Jones said, "as many of our best doctors, nurses, and health-care providers of all shapes and varieties inevitably flee our state and simply walk across the border to Oklahoma, to Arkansas, to Kansas, to all of the other states that surround us that have reasonable caps in place that protect both doctors and patients."
The Missouri House passed a malpractice cap bill last year, but it died in the Senate.
"Unless we take action this year, we'll see millions of dollars in the health-care industry diverted away from care," Jones said. "It will be diverted away from access to care, from creating more health-care jobs, and instead those dollars will be needed for legal defense costs."
Opponents say restoring caps would protect insurance companies at the expense of victims of medical malpractice. So far, two measures have been filed in the Missouri House to restore caps on damages, House Bill 1173 and House Joint Resolution 45. The latter would place medical malpractice caps in the Missouri Constitution.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport