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State shouldn’t wait on Fed tort reform fix

The House has taken a big step forward and passed a measure tocap pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Unfortunately, that action came from the U.S. House ofRepresentatives — not the Mississippi House. Mississippi, itappears, is no closer to tort reform today than it was before the16-day special legislative session fell apart last week withoutaccomplishing anything, except a big expense for the taxpayers.

The 217-203 vote in the U.S. House last Thursday came after alengthy debate that included stories of doctors forced to quittheir practices or relocate because of rising insurance costs.

”With greater and great frequency doctors are not there …because they’ve been priced out of the healing profession,” saidRep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the House JudiciaryCommittee.

Sound familiar? It should. Stories of doctors fleeingMississippi because of escalating malpractice insurance have beenin the news for months.

While the federal bill faces an uncertain future in theDemocratic-controlled Senate, Republicans are optimistic. They aresupported by the White House, business groups, insurers andhundreds of physicians.

We can’t predict what will happen with the federal bill. Wecan’t predict what the Mississippi Legislature will do, either.

We can only hope that the Mississippi House and Senate can cometo terms on tort reform legislation. (More on the differences ofthe two Houses can be found on page 6A of today’s newspaper.)Nobody said this would be an easy task. The legislature mustbalance the needs of the people. Those needs include medical care,a viable insurance market and a legal system that protects them inthe case of negligence.

Mississippi’s tort reform problem is just that — Mississippi’s.We hope our legislature will correct this problem before thefederal government steps in with laws of their own.