Senator Charles Schneider.

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have passed a bill they say will reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums for doctors.

Senator Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, said malpractice insurance premiums in Iowa are a deterrent to getting doctors to practice here.

“When a doctor can go to Nebraska and pay less than half for malpractice insurance than what an Iowa doctor has to practice, are you going to practice in Council Bluffs or Omaha?” Schneider asked during debate. “…When you can pay less in malpractice insurance in South Dakota, are you going to go live in South Dakota can or you going to live in Sioux City?”

Democrats like Senator Nate Boulton of Des Moines say the $250,000 limit on “non-economic” damages will devastate people who’ve been “seriously injured” by a medical error.

“This is about real people’s lives and when we talk about capping damages, we’re talking about the most extreme cases,” Boulton said, “the ones whose lives are ruined, the ones who are losing the ability to function.”

Senator Bill Dotzler.

Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, said the bill is a “bail out” for bad doctors who seriously injure patients.

“I know who pays for it,” Dotzler said. “They end up on some form of welfare and the people of the state of Iowa and this country pay for it.”

Schneider said Iowa ranks in the bottom ten states when it comes to the number of doctors in certain specialities like psychiatrist, radiology and general surgery — and the state ranks 51st in the number of doctors who’ll deliver babies.

“This bill is an effort to improve our malpractice climate by doing some things that a lot of other states around the country have already done and, in some cases, have been doing for decades,” he said.

According to Schneider, malpractice insurance rates have gone down in states that have placed “caps” or limits on “intangible” damages for things like “mental anguish” and “inconvenience.”