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House proposal would reform medical liability


By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: April 27, 2012 - 11:30 am ET
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The House Judiciary Committee has approved a proposal that includes earlier-passed medical liability reform legislation as a way to find savings to avoid arbitrary, across-the-board cuts to federal programs next year.

Last month, the House passed a budget bill that also requested six House committees—including Judiciary—to find areas of savings in a so-called reconciliation process to replace sequestration that is scheduled to begin in January. Sequestration refers to the automatic across-the-board budget cuts that will kick in January 2013 under the Budget Control Act of 2011 if Congress can't agree to how to achieve $1.2 trillion in cuts or added revenue over the next decade.

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In a 16-14 vote, the panel approved the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare, or HEALTH, Act of 2011, which Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a physician, introduced last year.

Also in March, the House passed legislation that included Gingrey's bill along with a provision to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board that was created in the 2010 healthcare law. The tort reform measure would create a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages of any malpractice suit in the country. Meanwhile, any punitive damages awarded would be as much as $250,000 or as much as two times the amount of economic damages awarded, whichever is greater.

On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved its reconciliation proposal to be sent to the House Budget Committee, while the House Ways and Means Committee approved recommendations last week.


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