Medical-Malpractice Bill Facing Likely Veto Override; McDonnell Spurns Measure to Raise Cap to $3 Million

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Medical-Malpractice Bill Facing Likely Veto Override; McDonnell Spurns Measure to Raise Cap to $3 Million


Byline: Paige Winfield Cunningham, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Gov. Bob McDonnell dodged potential charges of hypocrisy when he vetoed a bill broadly approved by the General Assembly that would have raised Virginia's cap on medical-malpractice awards.

But his rejection of the bill isn't likely to stand.

Of the four bills Mr. McDonnell vetoed this year - the first four vetoes of his term - the veto of the malpractice bill seems most likely to be overturned by legislators when they gather next week to consider the governor's vetoes and budget amendments and to approve new political districts.

Passed unanimously by the state Senate and by an 89-7 vote in the House of Delegates, the bill would have raised the cap on medical-malpractice awards by $50,000 annually until it reached $3 million in 2032.

It came as little surprise when Mr. McDonnell, widely thought to be considering his prospects for national office, vetoed the bill shortly before a midnight Tuesday deadline. During the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, he had criticized his opponent, Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, for supporting a 1999 bill that would have raised the malpractice cap from $1 million to $3 million.

Mr. McDonnell this week said raising the cap would not meaningfully protect against health care cost increases.

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, he said.

Groups on both sides of the medical-malpractice controversy support the bill, which was the result of a compromise among the Medical Society of Virginia, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association.

Scott Johnson, general counsel to the Medical Society of Virginia, said raising the cap will do just the opposite of what Mr. McDonnell claims. Instead of leaving open the future pos

sibility of more dramatic and sudden raises in the cap, the bill will result in a stable environment for health care providers, he said. …

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