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July 8, 2003

Chamber Decries Senate Stalemate

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 9, 2003 — The United States Chamber of Commerce criticized obstructionist members of the U.S. Senate for blocking a vote on medical liability reforms that would help ensure essential health care services and affordable coverage remain available.

“By hiding behind procedural maneuvers, some lawmakers have handed trial lawyers a victory at the expense of patients,” said Thomas Donohue, Chamber President and CEO. “As physicians exit their profession due to the scarcity and high cost of malpractice coverage, some members of the U.S. Senate chose to hide their heads in the sand.”

More than 300 state and local chambers of commerce from 46 states signed on to a U.S. Chamber letter urging the Senate to debate and pass a medical liability reform bill on its merits. The “Patients First Act” (S. 11) would have ensured patients were wholly compensated for injuries, while curbing excessive and unnecessary liability costs by setting limits on non-economic damages and lawyers’ contingency fees.

“Inaction by the Senate means continued pain and suffering for our nation’s communities,” said Donohue. “Reforming the medical tort system remains a top priority for employers, who voluntarily provide health care coverage to more than 136 million workers.”

The cost of lawsuits is crippling the health care delivery system in areas across the country, according to the Chamber. Without medical liability reforms, local communities will lose access to nearby, high quality medical facilities, and will be unable to attract businesses to locate in their area. Similarly, companies in affected areas will have difficulty recruiting managers and staff who are starting their families or who require special medical services. Recent studies indicate that seven percent of rising health care costs is due to litigation.

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