With time running out, New Mexico lawmakers clash over medical malpractice - Albuquerque Journal

With time running out, New Mexico lawmakers clash over medical malpractice

In this file photo, doctors from Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Vegas sit in the Senate gallery to watch the chamber work. They have been a frequent presence at the Capitol this year, pushing for changes to the state’s medical malpractice law. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — Tension over the lack of progress on medical malpractice legislation boiled over Saturday, triggering procedural skirmishes at the Roundhouse as about 100 doctors in white coats and scrubs watched from the gallery.

In the House, Republicans sought to dislodge a bill stuck in committee and move it either to the full chamber for final action or to another committee — procedural moves that failed.

Democrats said it would be inappropriate to bypass the usual committee process.

In the Senate, lawmakers of both parties thanked physicians and medical providers in the audience and said legislation intended to address New Mexico’s doctor shortage remains a priority.

But time is running out. Just a week is left in the 60-day session.

The speeches and procedural skirmishes came after the doctors had been warned by sergeants at arms — who keep order during legislative meetings — to avoid disrupting the proceedings.

The doctors had clapped during an earlier committee hearing after a senator called for action to revise New Mexico’s medical malpractice law. Applause is normally — but not always — prohibited during legislative meetings.

Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said the physicians had done nothing wrong.

“Let’s stop treating the doctors rudely,” he told his colleagues. “They have saved our lives over the last three years. They deserve a little leeway.”

The doctors, in any case, watched quietly from the gallery Saturday as the House and Senate engaged in procedural clashes and speeches about the state’s medical malpractice law.

The tension comes as lawmakers talk behind the scenes about how to address New Mexico’s doctor shortage. Proposals to boost student loan repayment programs and compensation for treating Medicaid patients have advanced at the Roundhouse.

But Democrats in each chamber have blocked proposals to revise the state’s 2021 medical malpractice law.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, told the doctors Saturday that he and Republican legislative leaders in his chamber are still trying to facilitate a compromise among the physicians, hospitals, patients and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

“There’s a recognition that we need to get this resolved,” Wirth said. “We have a week to go. There’s still plenty of time to make this happen.”

Republicans aren’t so optimistic and pushed for immediate action Saturday.

“We have a medical crisis,” Republican Rep. Bill Rehm of Albuquerque said.

He tried to move one of the medical malpractice bills out of the House Health and Human Services Committee — where it had been tabled last month — and send it either to its next committee, House Judiciary, or to the full House.

“Blasting” a bill out of committee, as it’s called, is a rarely used motion.

Despite the failure to move the bill Saturday, it could still be revived — either in committee or through new legislation, if a compromise is reached.

Like Wirth in the Senate, House Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, suggested Saturday’s action isn’t the end of the debate.

“My hope and expectation is that there is a good compromise on the table,” he said.

Democrats hold large majorities in each chamber, making their support critical to any potential changes to the malpractice law.

Much of the debate focuses on independently owned outpatient clinics. They face higher legal exposure for medical malpractice claims next year — a result of legislation in 2021 that phased in higher caps on legal damages.

The clinics say they cannot obtain the full insurance needed to operate under the higher cap and will have to close or sell to a corporate hospital. Opponents, in turn, say insurance companies are trying to protect their bottom line at the expense of families harmed by medical mistakes.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » With time running out, New Mexico lawmakers clash over medical malpractice

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
David Batista named branch manager with Yellowstone Landscape
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with ... BRIEFCASE: NMSU grad has been with the landscape company for 17 years.
Mexico: Migrants lit mattresses in protest; fire killed 39
ABQnews Seeker
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing ... MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Migrants fearing deportation set mattresses ablaze at an immigration detention center in northern Mexico, starting a fire that left 39 ...
New Mexico abortion care: What's happening now and what ...
ABQnews Seeker
When Roe v. Wade was overturned ... When Roe v. Wade was overturned last summer, New Mexico seemed poised to become a destination for those seeking abortion. Here's what's happened since ...
WaFd's Lonnie Corral promoted to senior VP
ABQnews Seeker
BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead ... BRIEFCASE: Corral will continue to lead the nine branches he oversees in southern New Mexico.
La Luz Elementary School students were originally expected to ...
ABQnews Seeker
Originally, the district's plans were to ... Originally, the district's plans were to move students out in 2025. Now, APS wants to do it this fall.
Authorities say a man brought a gun into Flix ...
ABQnews Seeker
If not for the theater's beer ... If not for the theater's beer taps or the man's suspected use of cocaine, the gun-wielding patron who sent Flix Brewhouse employees into a ...
Lobo hoops notebook: Seck to transfer, House returns, Udeze ...
ABQnews Seeker
News and notes around Lobo basketball, ... News and notes around Lobo basketball, including another transferring scholarship player and updates on Morris Udeze and Jaelen House.
Judge: District attorney can't be co-counsel in Baldwin case
ABQnews Seeker
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A ... SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- A New Mexico judge said Santa Fe's district attorney shouldn't serve as co-counsel in the manslaughter case against actor ...
What do PNM-Avangrid merger opponents really want?
ABQnews Seeker
Here's what merger supporters and opponents ... Here's what merger supporters and opponents have to say about the public-power movement’s influence on the Avangrid-PNM deal.