WASHINGTON — The House passed medical tort reform legislation Wednesday that is intended to help lower the cost of health insurance by lessening the burden of medical lawsuits.
Proposed by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215), the bill passed with 218 yeas and 210 nays. The bill caps medical malpractice lawsuits by restricting plaintiff non-economic damages to $250,000. Juries may not be informed of this limitation.
“The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that passage of King’s ‘Protecting Access to Care Act’ would save federal taxpayers at least $50 billion over a ten-year period. In addition, the CBO has estimated that King’s reforms would lower premiums for medical malpractice insurance by an average of 25 percent to 30 percent,” the Iowa congressman said in a statement.
He added, “Importantly, the ‘Protecting Access to Care Act’ continues to allow an injured party to receive full compensation for measurable, economic harm (such as medical expenses or lost wages) that they have incurred. The damage cap only applies to an award of non-economic damages (such as punitive damages) that are, by their very nature, speculative, subjective, and wildly inconsistent.”
Should the bill pass the Senate and get President Trump’s signature, it would also limit attorney fees and establish a three-year statute of limitations or one year after the claimant discovers the injury, whichever occurs first. The statute of limitation measure, however, varies slightly depending upon whether the individual is a minor under the age of 8 or 6.
Additionally, the bill would apply to medical malpractice lawsuits related to coverage provided from government programs like Medicare or Medicaid.
It could also be applied to coverage that is only partially covered by a government program or tax benefit. The bill does not, however, preempt particular state laws and federal vaccine injury laws and rules.
“One of the chief failings of the Affordable Care Act is that it never addressed the true cost-drivers of healthcare,” said California Republican Rep. Congressman Darrell Issa of the bill in a statement Wednesday night. “We spend billions every year on unnecessary procedures just to shield providers from possible lawsuits and it makes health care more expensive for all of us.”
The bill, according to Issa’s office, is modeled after California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), which has reduced California’s medical professional liability premiums, and Texas’ Medical Liability and Insurance Improvement Act (MLIIA).