The U.S. Senate failed to pass its version of medical malpractice reform last week, much to the chagrin of insurers and President Georg W. Bush. The “Patients First Act of 2003” (S. 11), which would have capped certain medical malpractice awards and limit attorneys’ fees, did not get the required number of votes to keep it alive. The House has already passed legislation (H.R. 5) to address spiraling medical malpractice liability rates that have resulted from rising court awards. “I am disappointed that the Senate has failed to pass medical liability reform legislation. The Nation’s medical liability system is badly broken, and access to quality health care for Americans is endangered by frivolous and abusive lawsuits,” says Bush. “The medical liability crisis is driving good doctors out of medicine, and leaving patients in many communities without access to both basic and specialty medical services.” S. 11 would have put a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in med mal cases, and cap punitive damages at $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages. Since 1994, the average jury award in medical malpractice lawsuits has more than tripled, says Monte Ward, federal affairs vice president for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAM IC). “This companion bill to H.R. 5 would go a long way in limiting the runaway jury awards of non-economic and punitive damages,” he says. “We will continue to work with the Majority Leader (Republican Bill Frist) to accomplish medical malpractice reform.” “America is suffering a continuing decline in the availability and quality of health care, while the lottery-style court settlements for a few skyrocket through the roof,” states a press release from the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII).