With total health care spending skyrocketing from 7.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1970 to 17.8 percent in 2015, and projections at 19.9 percent by 2025, supporters of The Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215) hope to make overall costs lower by capping malpractice payouts. H.R. 1215, which has tremendous provider support, would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits at $250,000. The Congressional Budget Office predicted the bill would also cut federal deficits by almost $50 billion over the course of the next ten years by slashing insurance premiums.
Iowa Republican Representative Steve King, who proposed the bill, released in a statement, “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 premium for medical malpractice insurance by an average of 25 percent to 30 percent”. Further, 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 noneconomic damages (such as punitive damages) that are, by their very nature, speculative, subjective, and wildly inconsistent.”
California Republican Representative Congressman Darrell Issa said he believes the bill would make for a viable replacement for the Affordable Care Act instituted under the Obama administration. “One of the chief failings of the Affordable Care Act is that it never addressed the true cost-drivers of health care,” according to Issa. “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 legislation barely passed the House on June 28th with a 218-210 vote, leaving many wondering if it’ll make it at Senate. President and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living stated the bill’s passage “helps at a time when we need it the most.”
However, not everyone is happy about its victory. Democrats don’t appreciate the bill’s attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act and some republicans also oppose the measure, stating it allows for too much power at the federal level. “Medical malpractice has long been the practice of states and having the federal government come in and do this was seen as a big overreach,” according to Remington A. Gregg, an advocate for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen. There is also concern regarding patient protection in cases of catastrophic damage, and many consumer groups believe the bill will have a negative impact on nursing home residents.
Those who oppose H.R. 1215 say that it’s unlikely the bill will make it at the Senate. Joanne Doroshow of the Center for Justice and Democracy, who calls the bill “unfair and discriminatory,” said, “It came to the Senate in a weakened state and I don’t see it improving. It passed, in our perspective, with the weakest possible vote from Republicans.” The legislation is awaiting consideration from Senate Judiciary committee.