Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Medical Malpractice Reform Is Still Alive
One of the knocks against the recent Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare was that it contained no provisions for medical tort reform. If it did, maybe the AMA and other medical societies would have been more supportive of the ill-fated plan.
But looky here--malpractice reform has not died in this Republican Congress, yet. H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, is slowly working its way through the marbled halls of Congress. Introduced by Republican representative Steve King of Iowa, it would put a cap on noneconomic damages at $250,000. However states can increase the cap on their own if they desire. This applies to any care that is partially subsidized by the federal government either through a subsidy or tax benefit. Theoretically that would include almost everybody who's on Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare, or Obamacare (ironic isn't it). I would think any hospital that received tax exempt status as a nonprofit would also be included.
In addition, H.R. 1215 would place a statue of limitations for a lawsuit at three years after the injury or one year after the discovery of the injury, whichever comes first. For minors under six years old, it's the same rules or until the age of eight, whichever comes later.
The bill has limits for how much contingency fees malpractice lawyers can earn from their clients. It is 40% of the first $50,000; 33.3% of the next $50,000; 25% of the next $500,000; and 15% of amounts over $600,000.
Naturally the liberals and lawyers are up in arms over this. They're going to trot out the usual sob stories of patients and families horribly damaged by physician incompetence and how tort reform would prevent them from seeking justice. Nobody ever brings up the fact that malpractice reforms work because lawyers could care less about their clients. If the payout isn't there, they will refuse representation in cases with little merit. They will only take on cases with a decent chance of winning, which is what it should be all along.
Democrats in the house are already trying to sabotage the bill. One would increase the cap on liability to $1,128,000, which is the inflation adjusted amount of $250,000 from 1975. It would also index the cap to future inflation. Another would start chipping away at the reform by exempting accidental retained foreign body or wrong sided or patient surgery.
So irrespective of your opinion about President Trump and the Republican party, all physicians and healthcare providers should put aside their partisan divisions and rally their Congressional representatives to support this measure. Passage of this bill would almost immediately give patients more access to affordable medical care without the federal government trying to remake the entire health insurance industry. Signing H.R. 1215 into law would also instantly make allies of the whole healthcare industry to whatever plan the Republicans come up with next to reform Obamacare.
H.R. 1215 is currently sitting in the House Judiciary, Energy, and Commerce Committee.