Sunday, October 26, 2014

HAWVER: A lesson in legislative medicine

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 3/3/2014

The Kansas Legislature might just learn a lesson from the Kansas Medical Society.

While the Legislature still is waiting on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the school finance case — a decision that could cost the state more than $440 million — it’s interesting to see how the “real world” deals with the court.

The Kansas Legislature might just learn a lesson from the Kansas Medical Society.

While the Legislature still is waiting on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the school finance case — a decision that could cost the state more than $440 million — it’s interesting to see how the “real world” deals with the court.

Remember just two years ago when the court, in a split decision, held that the then-20-year-old cap on noneconomic damages in a medical malpractice case was constitutional, but very practically low in the real world?

Well, the Kansas Medical Society apparently read the decision closely and decided rather than just celebrate, to try to make the court a little happier, with a bill that raises — just a dab — that current $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are, well, the ones that are difficult to put a pricetag on. Like inability to have a child, or ... presumably ... putt.

The key is that the medical society knows that at some time another medical malpractice case is going to go to the Supreme Court, and it can only be helpful for the court to know that the group has listened to the court.

The noneconomic damages cap moves up a bit under the Kansas Medical Society bill, to $350,000 over the next seven years, actually not much, but it’s a recognition of the court’s subtle suggestion.

Worth mentioning, the cap bill passed the Senate 32-8, with the opponents saying the bill doesn’t remove the cap; it just gives juries a little more room for a decision before the court puts a lid on the damages at the $350,000 level some find unconscionably low.

The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The two branches of government awaiting the judicial branch’s school finance decision?

Not much in the way of trying to win the case or curry favor for future cases. The governor proposed bumping K-12 spending by $20 million, but the Legislature doesn’t seem eager to agree to it. The Legislature still is bridling at the presumption of the Supreme Court to even consider ordering more money be spent.

Hmmm ... real world of doctors and their insurance companies? Let’s show a little deference to the apparent leaning of the court and see if we can put this issue to rest, for at least a while.

The Legislature? Nope. Keep your hands off the constitutionally protected right of the Legislature to make appropriations, and talk about it a lot while the court is still apparently negotiating among its members whether the state — through the Legislature — needs to spend more money on schools.

Yes, maybe the Legislature could learn something from doctors in the way of social skills in dealing with the court.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his Web site at www.hawvernews.com

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