Statement attributable to: J. James Rohack, M.D., President, American Medical Association

Feb. 4, 2010--"For the second time in 13 years, an Illinois court has superseded the will of the people and usurped the legislative prerogatives of the Illinois General Assembly by overruling the state's cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases.  

"The cap enacted in 2005 by the Illinois legislature has proven to be a remedy for the clear social and economic problems caused by the state's broken liability system. Today's court decision threatens to undo all that Illinois patients and physicians have gained under the cap, including greater access to health care, lower medical liability rates and increased competition among medical liability insurers.  

"Patients and physicians should not have to worry about revisiting the crisis that occurred in Illinois after the court overruled the state's previous cap on non-economic damages in 1997. Severe problems with patient access to care emerged as the unrestrained excesses of the state's legal system forced Illinois physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to other states where liability premiums were more stable.  

"Without a cap on non-economic damages from 1997 to 2005, Chicago physicians saw their liability premiums increase an average of 10 to 12 percent each year. When the cap was reinstated in 2005, premiums for Chicago physicians stabilized and even began to shrink.  

"It is critical to preserve strong medical liability reforms among the states so no patient is prevented from getting needed health care because of the broken liability system. The AMA is committed to enacting and defending strong medical liability reform laws on the state and national levels so that physicians can focus on what's most important - patient care."  

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