The bad news is that the Senate is moving forward with malpractice reform. They're fairly typical -- caps on all non-economic damages over $750,000, and $250,000 for individual practitioners. Refer to my series on the Medical Malpractice Myth for more extensive discussion of the evils of tort reform, but the basics are these:
• The problem isn't lawsuits, but medical malpractice, which injures hundreds of thousands of patients a year, and our current system doesn't do enough to protect against medical error.
• Tort reform, which mostly involves caps on awards, would do nothing to prevent medical error
• Only 3-4% of injured patients sue; there are far fewer lawsuits than we would expect
• Tort reform fails to address this issue as well, and we would expect even fewer patients to receive compensation for their injuries
The good news is the Senate, unlike its radical counterpart, took out clauses preventing medical device and pharmaceutical companies from punitive damages if their device was approved by the FDA.
While that clause seems logical at first glance, recent problems with Guidant and faulty manufacturing (which is totally separate from whether the device works in the first place), gives more than enough pause. Also, as pharmaceutical companies haven't been exactly honest in reporting the findings of their clincial trials, the tort system of checks and balances is something that needs preservation.