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Bush calls for malpractice-suit restrictions

President Bush urged Congress onThursday to impose substantial nationwide restrictions on medical malpractice cases, arguing that million-dollar verdicts are driving up health care costs and forcing doctors out of business.

Bush, branding the current system "broken and riddled with bad law," called for a dozen major changes to laws governing lawsuits by aggrieved patients, including a $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages, which compensate a victim for pain and suffering. Bush's plan would override laws in states that have set higher limits. He demanded legislative action by late fall.

The president's plan would create the first federal limits on lawsuits against doctors, hospitals and other providers of health care, thrusting the federal government into an arena of insurance regulation that traditionally has been the province of states. It is an issue that has been a favorite of conservative Republicans since the House GOP drafted its "Contract with America" in 1994.

But the measure faces substantial obstacles in the Senate.

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