Saturday, June 19, 2004

Physicians prefer Bunning to colleague

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Medical Association's political action committee has disavowed a fellow physician - Democrat Daniel Mongiardo - and endorsed U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning for re-election.

The organization said Bunning had consistently supported federal legislation for limits on damages in medical malpractice cases.

It criticized Mongiardo, a state senator from Hazard, for voting against a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at giving the General Assembly the authority to set limits on malpractice awards.

Bunning "is the only candidate in this race who has voted in favor of meaningful medical liability reform," Dr. John W. Collins, chairman of the Kentucky Educational Medical Political Action Committee, said in a statement.

Mongiardo had argued that caps on damages would not bring down malpractice insurance rates. He resigned from the KMA during a public dispute on the same issue last year. The proposed amendment was passed by the state Senate in January but never reached a vote in the House. The legislature adjourned April 13.

A spokesman for Mongiardo's campaign, Eric Niloff, said the endorsement of Bunning was no surprise.

Niloff said Mongiardo is being supported by many doctors and nurses "that, like him, are on the front lines every day helping patients."

KMA spokesman Marty White said the committee has tended to support incumbents in federal elections in recent years, though he insisted: "We don't look at Democrat or Republican. We look at who supports the medical community."

He said the endorsement was based on an assessment of voting records but also on "personal knowledge" of the two candidates.

Bunning sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare and many other health care issues. In a statement about the KMA endorsement, Bunning said a "medical liability crisis" was driving up costs by motivating doctors to practice "defensive medicine."

Mongiardo has been endorsed by a number of labor organizations, including PACs for the United Auto Workers, Kentucky AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers and Kentucky Education Association.

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