MEDICAL MALPRACTICE REFORM - Amy Snider

04/25/03

Yesterday the State senate passed a Medical Malpractice reform bill to attempt to cure what is seen as a health care crisis in Florida. Today, the Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club addressed the issue by pitting a doctor against a lawyer to help outline the issues in this debate. WMNF’s Amy Snider has the story.

On one side, was Tampa malpractice attorney Pat Dekle. On the other, Tampa Ear, nose, and throat doctor Dennis Agliano. The two men addressed what is seen as a crisis in Florida and throughout the nation – malpractice insurance rates for physicians have become so costly that many doctors can no longer afford to do high-risk procedures, and, as a result, the patients are suffering, some unable to obtain needed care.

Attorney Pat Dekle discusses the doctors’ strategy for tort reform:

Dekle

Dr. Dennis Agliano is the secretary of the Florida Medical Asssociation, and chaired the group’s Tort Reform Committee:

Aglinao

The major disagreement on how to solve this problem centers on caps for pain and suffering. Physicians, as well as the Governor and the president, insist that capping “non-economic� damages to cover pain and sufffering at $250,000 will bring down malpractice insurance costs. A similar provision has been adopted in other states, and physicians assert that it works. Dr. Aglinao:

The lawyers disagree. Attorney Dekle:

Dekle

Dr. Agliano strongly disagreed that a photographer’s eyes are worth more than someone eleses. He said that attorney’s use that example to muddy the water, that patients will be fairly and generously compensated by being awarded economic damages, based on their livelihood. The $250,000 cap, Agliano said, is a cushion to alleviate mental pain and suffering.

What happened to cause the crisis? Many factors were cited. The doctors, in part, blame the lawyers:

Agliano

In addition, Dr. Agliano blames managed health care.

Aglinao

The state Senate bill approved yesterday does not include the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering. It would, however, force insurers to rollback their malpractice rates to 2002 levels.

Attorney Dekle addresses the rollback issue:

Dekle

Dekle also said that it was his understaning that rollbacks are a so-called poison pill, unacceptable to insurance companies and therefore likely to kill the bill.

WMNF asked Dr. Agliano to comment on the rollback provison:

Agliano

Governor Jeb Bush has said that if the legislature does not pass a bill that contains provisions from the gubernatorial task force report on malpractice, including the cap for pain and sufgfering, he will call the legislature back into special session, which does not sit well with Attorny Dekle:

Dekle

The debate was moderated by Tampa Tribune Editorial Writer and Columnist Joe Brown, who tried to help the attendees to understand the issue. Noticeably absent from the debate were the insurers, and, patient advocates, both of whom disagree with the cap on pain and suffering.

For WMNF news, this is Amy SNider

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