Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205

03/29/2005 10:30 AM JUDICIARY

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Time Change --
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSSB 67(JUD) Out of Committee
           SB 67-CLAIMS AGAINST HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS                                                                       
10:38:23 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS announced  SB 67  to be  up for  consideration. He                                                               
asked  committee members  to submit  any proposed  amendments. He                                                               
advised public testimony was closed.                                                                                            
SENATOR GRETCHEN  GUESS asked whether  there was a  definition of                                                               
healthcare providers in the Alaska Statutes.                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS  announced a brief  recess while his  staff checked                                                               
for a definition.                                                                                                               
10:46:00 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS read aloud the definition of healthcare providers:                                                                
     Our  intent is  to  cover  doctors, nurses,  nurse                                                                         
     practitioners,    physicians    assistants,    all                                                                         
     healthcare  providers  including  those  that  are                                                                         
     named  here, acupuncturists,  audiologists, speech                                                                         
     pathologists,  chiropractors,  dental  hygienists,                                                                         
     dentists,   dispensing   opticians,   podiatrists,                                                                         
     naturopaths,  optometrists, pharmacists,  physical                                                                         
     or    occupational   therapists,    psychologists,                                                                         
     psychological  associate,  hospitals. There  is  a                                                                         
     definition and it is under AS 09.55.530-560.                                                                               
10:47:46 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH commented one  issue is the small market of                                                               
insurance  providers in  the State  of Alaska.  He suggested  the                                                               
committee look at other like-sized markets for comparison.                                                                      
CHAIR  SEEKINS  voiced the  primary  concern  is Alaska  has  two                                                               
insurance providers, both  of which are mutual  companies. If one                                                               
of the  two companies leaves Alaska,  the fear is the  other will                                                               
not pick up  the physicians left behind. The main  concern is the                                                               
shrinking number of providers.                                                                                                  
10:50:30 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GENE THERRIAULT noted that  hedonic damages are separated                                                               
from non-economic damages in Section 2, subsection (c).                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS agreed it appeared redundant.                                                                                     
SENATOR  THERRIAULT asked  whether  there was  a  reason for  the                                                               
10:51:47 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS asked Mr. Bill  Hogan whether the wording should be                                                               
"other" hedonic damages.                                                                                                        
10:52:25 AM                                                                                                                   
MR.  BILL  HOGAN,  Alaska Physicians  and  Surgeons,  agreed  the                                                               
wording  sounded  redundant.  He  said  he is  not  sure  of  the                                                               
distinction between  "hedonic damages" and "loss  of enjoyment of                                                               
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  whether the intent of  the Alaska Physicians                                                               
and  Surgeons group  was  to limit  damages  for the  occurrences                                                               
listed in Section 2, subsection (c).                                                                                            
MR. HOGAN answered correct.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  SEEKINS asked  Mr. Hogan  if he  would object  to deleting                                                               
"but may not include hedonic damages" on Page 2, line 3.                                                                        
MR. HOGAN answered no.                                                                                                          
10:53:21 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT  suggested  the  drafter  chose  to  use  the                                                               
language for a reason.                                                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS called  a brief at ease at 10:54:03  AM in order to                                                             
contact the drafter for comment on the chosen verbiage.                                                                         
CHAIR SEEKINS reconvened the meeting at 11:01:14 AM.                                                                          
CHAIR SEEKINS  asked drafter  Don Bullock  to explain  Section 2,                                                               
subsection (c).                                                                                                                 
MR. DON BULLOCK, attorney,  Legislative Affairs Agency, explained                                                               
"hedonic damages" means  life is not what it used  to be. Hedonic                                                               
damages would be different than  "pain and suffering" if the case                                                               
involved a  person suffering from  a brain injury  that precluded                                                               
them  from feeling  pain.  It  is difficult  to  put  a value  on                                                               
hedonic  damages since  it is  a "quality  of life"  issue rather                                                               
than a  "pain and suffering"  issue. The  definition in SB  67 is                                                               
out  of Black's  Law  Dictionary.  It is  an  additional type  of                                                               
damage from those listed in Section 2, subsection (c).                                                                          
11:03:41 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR FRENCH suggested they modify  the current system to bring                                                               
assurance to  both the insurance industry  and the practitioners.                                                               
He  proposed they  bring the  cap down  slowly to  reach a  happy                                                               
11:05:20 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR  SEEKINS  asserted there  is  no  restriction on  a  person                                                               
recovering  for  actual damages.  SB  67  speaks of  non-economic                                                               
11:05:56 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  FRENCH proposed  a conceptual  amendment  to change  the                                                               
caps  to $350,000  and $850,000.  Children and  old people  would                                                               
suffer most  from SB 67  because they cannot demonstrate  a large                                                               
earning capacity. He suggested the  committee revisit the changes                                                               
next session to see whether they are working.                                                                                   
11:07:09 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  THERRIAULT   objected.  He  maintained   the  conceptual                                                               
amendment would fix nothing.                                                                                                    
CHAIR SEEKINS agreed.                                                                                                           
SENATOR  FRENCH  disagreed.  He   stated  it  would  lower  total                                                               
exposure  by  a  significant  amount.  Under  his  proposal,  any                                                               
million-dollar  jury case  would be  reduced by  15 percent.  His                                                               
suggestion  would  show  the  Legislature  is  working  toward  a                                                               
solution that will result in a reduction in total awards.                                                                       
11:08:50 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR  GRETCHEN GUESS  asked Senator  Therriault to  expound on                                                               
why he feels the split cap is not working.                                                                                      
CHAIR  SEEKINS offered  to answer  the question.  The Legislature                                                               
should  deal with  the definition  of "severe"  as it  applies to                                                               
many liabilities.  Currently severe  is defined as  anything that                                                               
can be  embarrassing. It is easy  to claim a case  belongs in the                                                               
higher cap  category. The intent with  medical malpractice issues                                                               
is to put a hard cap into place.                                                                                                
11:11:18 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR GUESS  stated the  Bethel case  had more  to do  with the                                                               
jury making the decision of  severity. She voiced the problem was                                                               
in defining severe personal impairment or severe disfigurement.                                                                 
CHAIR SEEKINS  agreed and stated  the Supreme Court  provided the                                                               
jury with the definition.                                                                                                       
SENATOR  GUESS  added it  is  difficult  to determine  where  the                                                               
middle ground should  be in regards to insurance  claim caps. She                                                               
voiced support for Senator French's proposed amendment.                                                                         
11:12:45 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR SEEKINS asked  for a roll call and  the proposed conceptual                                                               
amendment failed 3-2 with Senators  Huggins, Therriault and Chair                                                               
Seekins dissenting.                                                                                                             
11:13:13 AM                                                                                                                   
SENATOR CHARLIE  HUGGINS moved CSSB  67(JUD) from  committee with                                                               
individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s).                                                                         
SENATOR  FRENCH objected.  He asserted  CSSB  67(JUD) would  deny                                                               
benefits to the most seriously injured Alaskans.                                                                                
11:14:18 AM                                                                                                                   
Roll call moved CSSB 67(JUD) out  of committee by a 3-2 vote with                                                               
Senators French and Guess dissenting.                                                                                           

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