Medical Liability Reform Bill Passes House

July 2017 ~

Last week in a vote of 218-210, the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (H.R. 1215). The bill will now advance to the Senate for consideration.

If approved, the bill would cap non-economic damages in malpractice litigation at $250,000 and limit the fees lawyers can charge in healthcare lawsuits. H.R. 1215 would establish liability safeguards to protect providers from product liability lawsuits involving an FDA-approved drug or medical device.

The Protecting Access to Care Act would apply to lawsuits where a patient’s coverage was provided through a federal program, subsidy or tax benefit – including patients insured under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), veterans, service members, civil servants and Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries.

In addition to introducing a $250,000 cap for medical malpractice suits, H.R. 1215 would:

  • Impose sliding-scale limits on plaintiff attorney contingency fees;
    • 40% of the first $50,000 awarded to an injured patient
    • 33% of the next $50,000
    • 25% of the next $500,000
    • 15% of damages topping $600,000
  • Exempt clinicians who order a drug or medical device from class-action or product-liability lawsuits;
  • Enact a Fair Share rule to replace the joint-and-several liability under which a plaintiff can recover all court-awarded damages from one of several defendants, even in the event partial responsibility for the injury;
    • The Fair Share rule would divide the damages among multiple defendants based on their percentage of responsibility
  • Establish a statute of limitations for a malpractice suits of no more than three years following the wrongful act or one year after the plaintiff discovers the wrongful act to encourage speedy resolution of claims;
  • Allow surgeons to pay damages in installments when the damages are more than $50,000, instead of all at once;

The limits imposed by H.R. 1215’s additional protections aim to curb insurance premiums and ensure affordable access to healthcare services. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill would lower medical malpractice insurance premiums and decrease unnecessary defensive medicine. The CBO estimates the bill will cut federal healthcare spending by $44 billion and reduce the deficit by $50 billion over the next decade.


Source(s): MGMA Washington Connection; HealthcareDIVE; Becker’s Spine Review; Medscape;