Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that caps medical malpractice lawsuits by limiting plaintiff damages to $250,000. The deceptively named Protecting Access to Care Act applies to anyone whose claim is based on care that was provided through a federal program, subsidy, or tax benefit. That includes patients insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), veterans, service members, civil servants and Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries.
The bill, H.R. 1215, has yet to come before the Senate, but if it were to become law, it would immediately become the most unprecedented and comprehensively draconian effort at so-called “tort reform” by our federal government in U.S. history. The bill not only places arbitrary caps on pain and suffering damages, but also sets limits on attorneys' fees and imposes a three-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a sponsor of the bill, claims that H.R. 1215 is necessary to curb healthcare spending. In reality, the bill does nothing to "curb healthcare costs," "reign in jackpot justice," or any of the other trite canards these politicians will trot out in support of this bill.
In reality, medical malpractice claims are on the decline, and have been for some time. Just this year JAMA Internal Medicine published a study finding that the “the overall rate of [malpractice] claims paid on behalf of physicians decreased by 55.7% from 1992 to 2014.”
Moreover, caps on damages like the ones proposed in H.R. 1215 will provide only a modest reduction in health care costs.
The sad truth is that the “Protecting Access to Care Act” is a scam, concerned more about protecting insurance companies' bottom lines than protecting you, the patient or consumer. Imagine losing a loved one to the negligence of a physician or hospital and being limited to $250,000 in damages for your pain and suffering. Is the value of your child, spouse, mother, or father worth so little in the eyes of these politicians? The short answer is: yes.
Insurance companies don't like paying medical malpractice claims no matter how meritorious a claim may be. Private insurance carriers are in the business of collecting premiums and not paying claims unless forced to do so. Paying out money to a medical malpractice plaintiff, no matter how deserving the plaintiff may be, is quite simply bad for their business.
So these companies spend millions annually to convince the public that an imaginary medical malpractice crisis exists, and is to blame for the exorbitant costs endemic in our healthcare system. At the same time, they pay a small fortune to lobby the very politicians proposing this legislation, and have a hand in writing the very legislation that will benefit them most. All of this is done at the expense of the public, who is deceived into believing that their elected officials are now acting in their best interests.
The White House has already signaled its support of H.R. 1215, and there is no doubt that President Trump will sign the Protecting Access to Care Act into law in the event it passes the Senate. Contact your senator to express your opposition to the H.R. 1215 to truly protect your access to quality and accountable healthcare.
Stiers Law excels at the representation of persons injured due to the negligence of doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and other medical providers, including maritime medical malpractice claims against physicians and nurses employed by cruise ship operators. Contact us today for a free consultation.