Medical, insurance and business groups are applauding Thursday's House of Representatives approval of a plan to reform medical professional liability insurance that includes a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice awards.
"The House's action is the first critical step in addressing the medical liability crisis confronting patients and physician group practices throughout the nation," says William Jessee, M.D., president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association, Englewood, Colo.
"By voting 'yes' to medical liability reform legislation, Congress recognizes that our current medical liability system is broken and threatening access to care for millions of Americans, particularly in regard to high-risk medical care and services," AMA President Yank Coble Jr., M.D., says.
The American Association of Health Plans, representing managed care, and the Health Coalition on Liability & Access, which includes physicians, payers, employers, hospitals and pharmaceutical interests, issued similar statements.
The House voted 229-196 in favor of the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2003, largely along party lines. Just nine Republicans voted against the bill, sponsored by Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.), while 16 Democrats supported it.
The vote comes one day after the House overwhelmingly approved separate legislation to promote healthcare quality reporting.
As passed, the HEALTH Act limits noneconomic damages in malpractice judgments to $250,000 and places a three-year statute of limitation on malpractice suits, with some exceptions. It also would pre-empt state laws except those that offer greater protection for healthcare providers from liability, loss or damages.
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the GOP holds a much slimmer majority.