WASHINGTON, DC — January 21, 2003 — “The food retail and wholesale industry strongly supports President Bush in calling for medical liability reforms that benefit patients, physicians, employers and workers,” said Tim Hammonds, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).

“We cannot afford sustained, double-digit increases in health insurance,” he said. “The solution starts with reasonable controls on medical liability. We must cap non-economic damages to a reasonable amount, such as $250,000, and reserve punitive damages for the most flagrant cases of malpractice.

“Nobody wins when malpractice insurance premiums continue to increase health care costs.

“Doctor’s lose as the increases drive them out of business or to other states where they can afford malpractice coverage.

“Patients lose high-quality and specialized medical care or they lose their life savings to cover treatment for serious illnesses.

“Workers lose as employers face the grim choices of requiring employees to pay more for insurance, increasing deductibles and co-pays, reducing coverage or eliminating health coverage altogether. This is a major problem for small family-owned businesses now struggling to survive in a weak economy and extremely competitive marketplace.”

Hammonds cited other policy changes needed to restrain the rising cost of health care:

  • “Reform government regulations to speed less costly generic drugs to the market.
  • “Allow small businesses to form self-insuring associations to evenly spread the cost of coverage.
  • “Take action to restrain state and federal insurance mandates. For example, we cannot afford the Patients’ Bill of Rights that the Senate passed in the last Congress, which would increase health care costs by an additional 4.2 percent, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.”

Hammonds added, “The proposal to reform medical liability will help resolve another issue — runaway tort claims. Too often, insurance companies choose to settle liability claims that have little merit and could be defeated in trials.”