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Panel rejects mandatory malpractice premium cuts

Today is the 10th day of the 60-day session.

House Republicans on Wednesday turned back proposals to make insurance companies freeze and then roll back malpractice premiums to help doctors stay in business.

Democrats tried to tack the measures onto a broad proposal meant to rein in the cost of insurance, which doctors say is becoming too expensive for some of them to practice.

The bill (PCB HC 03-03) approved 15-6 by the House Health Care Committee included as its main element a $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering and other noneconomic damages that doctors and their insurers must pay out in malpractice lawsuit judgments.

Rep. Susan Bucher, D-Lantana, argued that such a cap would not bring about quick relief from high insurance rates without a provision forcing the companies to lower premiums. "I think we need to roll back rates now," she said.

But the heavily Republican committee voted down rate rollback amendments on voice votes.

Bill to let old condos vote no on sprinklers advances

A bill to allow owners of units in aging, high-rise condominiums to exempt themselves from state requirements for retrofitting with fire sprinklers was approved by the House Judiciary Committee despite opposition from the State Fire Marshals Association.

The bill (HB 165) by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Lauderdale, would allow condominiums to opt out of the sprinkler requirement if two-thirds of the owners approved. It must clear three more committees to reach the House floor.

"We don't think the government knows better than people in their condominiums," Mack said.