Pence signs med-mal cap increase on final day

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Medical malpractice victims will be eligible for more compensation after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a bill increasing the payment cap for the first time since the 1990s. The cap would increase from the current $1.25 million limit to $1.65 million next year and then to $1.8 million in 2019.

The bill was among the last Pence signed Thursday, the deadline for his signature or veto on legislation passed by the 2016 Indiana General Assembly.

Supporters say the increase was needed to protect the cap from court challenges since it hasn't been raised for so long. Some medical groups opposed the size of the cap increase, saying doctors would not be able to absorb jumps in malpractice insurance premiums.

However, bill author Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said medical groups such as the Indiana Hospital Association, Indiana State Medical Association and Indiana Health Care Association, as well as the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, testified in favor of the bill. He said there was recognition that the Medical Malpractice Act could be ruled unconstitutional without an increase in caps, as has happened in other states.

Senate Enrolled Act 28 also includes these provisions:

• Adjusts the total amount of attorney fees recoverable under a med-mal action. Instead of the current limit of 15 percent of any award from the Indiana Patient Compensation Fund, attorney fees are now capped at 32 percent of any recovery under the act.

• Increases the liability for private insurers from $250,000 to $400,000 for an act of malpractice after June 30, 2017. Liability for private insurers increases to $500,000 after June 30, 2019. Any award in excess of that level will be paid from the Patient Compensation Fund.

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