W.Va. panel passes bill that makes doctors happy
Reform leaves out provisions governor wanted
Tuesday, January 14, 2003 Posted: 9:35 AM EST (1435 GMT)

Gov. Bob Wise consults with doctors at the state Capitol in West
CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) -- The House Judiciary Committee
passed a medical malpractice reform bill Monday night that shelves
provisions sought by Gov. Bob Wise and resembles legislation pushed
by doctors, hospitals and insurers.

The bill now moves to the House floor.

The committee replaced Wise's $20 million relief fund to help doctors
pay their premiums with a less-generous income tax credit. The fund
was to have been paid for from the state's share of the national
tobacco settlement.

The committee also scrapped Wise's sliding scale for damages sought
by malpractice plaintiffs for such things as pain and suffering,
capping them at $250,000, adjusted annually for inflation.

"I'm sure most of the medical community will be very happy," Dr. Doug
McKinney, president of the state Medical Association, said after the
vote. "I think the cap was the most important thing, and it passed

The bill keeps the governor's $500,000 cap for damages arising from
trauma care, and his proposed $250,000 exemption for doctors forced
into bankruptcy, meant to allow them to keep their houses.

The committee's vote followed a walkout by about two dozen surgeons
in far northwestern West Virginia over high malpractice insurance

Wise urged doctors Monday to support his legislation. "Tax credits
always work on the back end," he said. "Our approach works on the
front end."

Survivors of medical malpractice, meanwhile, asked lawmakers to rein
in negligent doctors and insurers instead of limiting lawsuits and
jury awards.

Stephanie Mills of Parkersburg said malpractice left her daughter,
who turned 6 on Monday, crippled and severely brain damaged for life.

"I'm not here saying doctors are bad," Mills said at a Capitol news
conference. "But we should not punish the victims of malpractice."