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Governor vetoes medical malpractice cap bills

Gov. Bob McDonnell yesterday rejected the compromise plan providing for annual increases in Virginia’s medical malpractice cap to the level of $3 million, saying Virginia’s current $2-million cap is adequate.

The plan for additional step increases was hammered out in negotiations among representatives of doctors, hospitals and plaintiffs’ lawyers – and all three groups had urged McDonnell to sign the legislation. “While I commend the affected stakeholders for working diligently together, increasing the medical malpractice cap will ultimately lead towards higher health care costs for doctors, hospitals, businesses, and most importantly, patients,” McDonnell said in a statement issued Wednesday:

Virginia currently has a climate that has effectively stabilized malpractice premiums, and attracted health care service providers to the Commonwealth.  Virginia’s $2 million cap is the highest all-encompassing cap in the nation, and was last raised in 2008.  Raising the cap for medical malpractice judgments to $3 million over the next twenty years, without further reforms in the medical malpractice litigation system, will not meaningfully protect against health care cost increases.  Mandates included in the federal health care law, which is currently in litigation, will cost Virginia an estimated $2 billion over the next 10 years if implemented, and are creating great uncertainty in the health care system.  Thus, adding to system costs at this time without other offsets should not occur.

Backers of the cap compromise are already at work on getting votes to override the governor’s veto, a likely outcome given the slight opposition when the bills moved through the Assembly.

By Peter Vieth

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