A bipartisan group in the House of Representatives is trying once again to get a bill through Congress that seeks to reform the medical liability system by placing caps on pain and suffering damages.
The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare or HEALTH Act would set a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, and would limit the number of years a plaintiff has to file a healthcare liability action to ensure that claims are brought while witnesses are still available and before evidence is destroyed.
These provisions are modeled after a
tort reform law in California, which has benefited from stable medical malpractice premiums, said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), chief sponsor of the bill, at a news conference last week to announce its reintroduction.
Texas, which approved a similar law, has seen an increase in subspecialists and a reduction in the cost of medical malpractice premiums, affirming that tort reform does work, he added.
If approved by the House, this will be the fifth time in less than five years that the House has voted to approve the HEALTH Act, Gingrey said. The bill has always died in the Senate, and Gingrey wasnt sure if the HEALTH Act would fall short of the 60 votes it would need to get Senate approval. The key is to work with Senate leadership on this issue, he said.
Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.), who joined Gingrey and others at the news conference to support the bill, contended that the Democrats arent getting anything done. This is something they could accomplish on a bipartisan basis. The bill has the support of 51 physician groups.
Bipartisan bills introduced in the House and Senate several weeks ago took another approach to resolving the medical liability crisis: awarding grants to states to pilot health courts and other solutions. The legislation from Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) calls on HHS to award 10 grants to states that would use the funds to develop alternatives to the current tort system for resolving medical malpractice claims. Each state would be awarded $500,000 in demonstration grant money, which may last for up to five years.
Baucus, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, said on the day of (his bills) introduction that caps dont work, and we need to get beyond that debate in Congress to find new solutions, said a Baucus aide.
Gingrey noted that he wouldnt be opposed to the options presented in Baucus bill.