House Votes To Cap Malpractice Damages

While the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week over the constitutionality of the nearly two-year-old health-care reform package, members of Congress have been busy trying to chip away at the legislation.

Earlier today, the House approved (by a 223-181 vote) the Protecting Access to Healthcare Act (it spells PATH!), which puts a $250,000 limit on non-economic damages for medical malpractice claims. It also gets rid of the 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board (whose initials don’t spell out anything cool), which was supposed to start providing counsel to Congress on Medicare changes.

Those in favor of this legislation claim that the malpractice cap would help bring down health care costs. They also slammed IPAB as “unelected bureaucrats.”

But opponents of PATH say the problems with the bill are many. According to the folks at Public Citizen it would:

(1) Leave patients without compensation for the share of damages assigned to an uninsured, underinsured or bankrupt defendant;

(2) Allow negligent providers to compensate patients with multiple payments over time, which would short-change victims out of the compensation they need immediately to cover their health care costs, while providing a windfall to the negligent provider;

(3) Cap only patients’ attorney fees while leaving a “sky is the limit” blank check for health industry fees;

(4) Shorten the time frame in which a patient can file a claim; and

(5) Limit punitive damages for all health industry participants, including drug and medical device manufacturers, which eliminates a critical incentive against the most egregious types of misconduct.

But this might all be much ado about nothing, as this legislation is not likely to impress the Democrat majority in the Senate.

Bill stripping parts of health-care law passes House [Washington Post]