Bipartisan Malpractice Reform Bill Introduced in House

A bipartisan malpractice reform bill just introduced in the House would cap non-economic damages at $250,000, mirroring successful laws in California and Texas, according to a release by the AMA.

The new Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act, which spells out HEALTH Act, was introduced by Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), David Scott (D-Ga.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

Malpractice reform is a high priority for the AMA and other provider trade groups but was essentially ignored in the healthcare reform law, even though it is expected to reduce healthcare spending. In October 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated malpractice reform could save the federal government $54 billion over 10 years.  

Republicans have long supported malpractice reform and view it as a key strategy to deliver reform, rather than just being seen as naysayers. It could also reduce healthcare costs in an era of tight budgeting. In October 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that malpractice reform could save the federal government $54 billion over 10 years. Much of the savings would come through reducing defensive medicine, in which physicians are said to order unnecessary tests to avoid being sued.

Many Democrats in Congress, however, oppose malpractice reform. Trial lawyers, who represent plaintiffs in such suits, are among the most generous donors to the party, but Democrats also are concerned about limiting an individual's right to sue and question the amount of savings that would be realized.

Opponents of federal malpractice reform also argue that insurance regulation should remain with the states. The healthcare reform law, however, has already limited state regulatory powers, with provisions such as its new medical-loss ratio limits for health insurers and its mandate to buy health insurance. Also, states' rights is not a Democratic battle-cry.  

Read the AMA release on malpractice.

Read more coverage of malpractice reform:

- House Committee to Hold Hearing on Medical Liability Reform

- Study Finds 42% of Physicians Have Been Sued for Malpractice

- Four House Committees Map Out Plans Against Healthcare Reform

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