Healthcare Business News
Rep. Michael Burgess

Little hope seen for liability caps

By Rich Daly
Posted: April 6, 2011 - 2:30 pm ET

The outlook for enactment of medical malpractice limitations is not good in the current Congress, according to supporters of caps, even as the need for them has sharply increased.

Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told reporters after a Wednesday hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee on a measure to cap the noneconomic damages awards in such suits that the bill is likely to stall in the Democratic-controlled Senate, just as similar measures have in several previous Congresses.

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“Even with a doctor as majority leader, we were never able to get it through the Senate,” he said about former Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.).

But Republicans and their physician allies argue the measure is needed more than ever because of the impact of several provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted last year. For example, that law's reliance on comparative-effectiveness research to drive future healthcare decisions will require clinicians to treat patients in ways that will increase their malpractice liabilities.

Dr. Troy Tippett, a neurosurgeon, told the panel that the law's comparative-effectiveness components were among its “most fertile ground for new medical malpractice lawsuits.”

Democrats countered that the measure will continue to stall in Congress because it does not address the root cause of malpractice suits: poor care by underperforming clinicians.

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