After the Vote on Health Reform, House Turns its Attention to Medical Liability
On 03.03.11, In Legal Industry, by Blake Houser
The Jan. 19 vote to repeal the national health reform law was followed up by House Republicans’ introduction of medical liability reform legislation that seeks to cap damage awards.
This measure is among several House GOP members are working on to take the place of the health system reform law.
The proposed legislation would cap the non-economic damages to $250,000 and punitive damages to two times the amount of economic damages. It does not, however, preempt any state laws that establish lower or higher damage caps.
The sponsor of the bill is Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD, a Republican from Georgia and an obstetrician-gynecologist.
Coined as the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Health Care Act of 2011, or HEALTH Act, Rep. Gingrey said that it would save the taxpayer billions of dollars by reducing defensive medicine.
“If the president and Congress are truly interested in lowering the cost of health care in this country, the HEALTH Act is a very good place to start,” Gingrey said.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address to lawmakers last Jan. 25, stated that he is open to considering “medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.” He, however, did not elaborate on this statement.
President Obama has previously acknowledged the issue of defensive medicine costs and frivolous lawsuits, but has also declared his opposition to damage awards cap.
A statute of limitations on filing lawsuits relating to health care will also be set by the proposed HEALTH Act.
The allowable period for the health care lawsuit to be filed will be “one year after the patient discovers, or should have discovered, an injury, or three years after the injury, whichever occurs first.”