Lawmakers seek to cap damages in medical malpractice cases

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

By Sheila Kaplan

Doctors who worry about medical malpractice lawsuits would get major relief under legislation that was approved by a House committee Tuesday and that would make it harder for patients to come after their money.

The legislation, approved by the House Judiciary Committee in an 18-17 vote, would cap damages that can be paid by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. (Many states already limit awards paid by individual providers.) It would cover individuals who are insured under Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or military health plans, and the Affordable Care Act, and could also impact people covered under COBRA or health savings plans. …

Tuesday’s session surprised Democrats and their allies, who believed they were weeks away from having to fend off what they view as encroachments on consumer protections.

“We expected something in the context of the Affordable Care Act replacement,” said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy. “But not a standalone medical malpractice-nursing home-drug industry bill. We were fairly shocked.”

At the hearing, Michigan Representative John Conyers Jr., the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and several of his colleagues criticized the GOP’s rapid movement on the bill.

“This measure has repeatedly failed because of its many problems, including its trampling of states’ rights,” Conyers said. “The majority is now rushing it to markup as part of their chaotic attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act even though it will directly impede Americans’ access to safe quality medical care.”

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