On June 28th, by a vote of 218-210, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 which adds limitations to medical malpractice cases. The bill was opposed by all Democrats and a handful of Republicans.
The expressed goal of the legislation is to improve access to, and the quality of, medical care. The bill’s supporters hope to achieve this by “reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.” The bill sets new limits on medical malpractice litigation; changes the statute of limitations on filing malpractice claims; and, caps non-economic awards for plaintiffs.
Damages that are non-economic, such as pain and suffering, would be limited to $250,000.
Proponents say that doctors’ habit of overusing tests and procedures as a way of avoiding liability will be curbed by the bill. As a result, costs will be driven down. Additionally, they believe that insurance costs for doctors will decrease which will indirectly lower costs to patients.
The CBO’s evaluation of the bill found that it “would lower costs for healthcare by lowering premiums for medical liability insurance and by reducing the use of health care services.” The CBO also said that the federal deficit could be reduced by $50 billion from 2017-2027.
Opponents have criticized the bill, alleging that it limits the ability of victims of medical malpractice to receive their rightful damages. The bill faces an uncertain future as it heads to the Senate, where it will likely need 60 votes to pass.
As always, ADVOCATE will keep you up to date on this and all issues impacting radiology as they become available.
Kirk Reinitz, CPA