Malpractice bill emerges toothless from House

By Richard Haugh
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

For the second time in two years, it appears efforts to revise Colorado’s medical malpractice law have been thwarted.

House Bill 1344, sponsored by Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, and Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, would have raised the cap on payments for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits to roughly $465,000 and then indexed those payments to inflation.

This year’s bill also would have required the state insurance commissioner to publicly post any medical malpractice insurance company’s premium increase request exceeding 5 percent, and if requested “by a person acting in good faith,” hold a hearing on the rate increase.

The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, which backed the bill, said it would have restored the original purchasing power the cap established in 1988 and then tied annual increases in the cap to inflation.

However, at a Monday hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, Scanlan pulled language about the cap out of the bill, while leaving in place provisions calling for malpractice insurance companies to get approval from the state’s Division of Insurance before raising premiums by more than 5 percent.

Scanlan said at the hearing that she didn’t think passage of the bill this year is feasible. Observers say it’s likely she didn’t have the votes to get the bill through the House.

Although it’s technically still alive in its revised form, this year’s original bill joins last year’s Senate Bill 164 on the failed-bill pile. SB 164 also would have raised the pain-and-suffering cap and indexed it to inflation, but also would have created a separate category of damages that could have increased payouts in medical malpractice cases.

This year’s revised HB 1344 was approved by the House Appropriations Committee and got an initial approval by the full House Tuesday.

Rick@coloradostatesman.com