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House Passes Medical Liability Reform
After the elections of 2010, it was highly anticipated that the House of Representatives would take up medical liability reform in the 112th Congress. And after several committee hearings in 2011 were dedicated to the issue, legislation (H.R. 5, the Protecting Access to Healthcare Act) reached the House floor last week and was passed by a bi-partisan vote of 223 to 181.
This was the 12th time that medical liability reform legislation has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives since 1995.
Estimates have pegged the savings from this particular medical liability reform legislation to federal healthcare spending at $34 billion over 10 years, and the Congressional Budget Office has determined that the medical liability reform provisions of H.R. 5 would reduce the deficit by $45.5 billion over the same time period. This legislation will continue to provide full and unlimited compensation for economic damages to deserving patients, while putting an end to medical lawsuit abuse and maintaining access to vital medical services for all.
The HCLA sent letters of support to Speaker John Boehner and Congressman Phil Gingrey ahead of last week’s vote, and hundreds of our Protect Patients Now grassroots supporters called, emailed, and tweeted their Members of Congress.
“The House of Representatives has taken medical liability reform seriously, and I thank the bi-partisan coalition of members who came together and supported this legislation that is so critical to patients and health care providers across the country,” Chairman Mike Stinson said at the conclusion of the vote. The bill now heads to the Senate, where its fate is less certain.
The HCLA thanks all of our readers and activists who took the time to contact their Member of Congress in support of H.R. 5 and medical liability reform. We will continue our efforts to protect patients by working with the leadership in Washington, DC until comprehensive medical liability reform legislation is signed into law.
Bottom Line: Ryan Budget Includes Medical Liability Reform
Congressman Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, released a budget for 2013 that again makes mention of the need for medical liability reform to control out-of-control health care spending and ensure vital health care services remain affordable, and accessible, to all patients.
According to the budget, titled, A Roadmap for America’s Future, “Common-sense solutions include enacting medical liability reform, ensuring Americans can purchase quality coverage across state lines, and expanding access to consumer-directed health care options.”
In March of 2011, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that a package of comprehensive medical liability reforms would reduce federal deficits by $62 billion over 10 years, and its role in balancing the budget and cutting costs has been made clear.
In addition to the Ryan Budget, medical liability reform has been included in the bi-partisan deficit reduction plans of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, and the Senate “Gang of Six.”
For more information about Congressman Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future, visit the House Budget Committee’s website.
Patients Prevail Over Personal Injury Lawyers in Texas
Nearly 10 years after access to care was preserved for Texas patients, relentless personal injury lawyers again attempted to nullify the states’ medical liability reform laws by bringing forth a lawsuit citing violations to the U.S. Constitution.
Fortunately, a federal judge ruled this week that the law was within the bounds of the Constitution and remains in place, to the benefit to the millions of patients throughout the state who have witnessed lower costs and a large influx of physicians to the state.
Patient advocates in Texas applauded the courts’ decision.
“Thanks to the reforms, we have more physicians available to care for the sickest and most badly injured Texans. The reforms have kept their promise to our state, and this ruling means we won’t break that promise,” said Texas Medical Association President C. Bruce Malone, MD.
Mike Hull, general counsel of Texas Alliance For Patient Access, agreed. “A trial lawyer victory would have gutted the benefits of reform and been a big blow to the delivery of health care,” he said.
The reforms passed in 2003 have led physician growth to outpace population growth and helped Texas patients who previously were cut off from vital health care services. To read more about the decision and the win for Texas patients, click here.
Romney Voices Support for Reform
Presidential Candidate and former Governor Mitt Romney took to the editorial pages of USA Today this month to voice his support for health care reform efforts that are centered on protecting patients and reducing medical lawsuit abuse.
Romney writes, “Finally, we need to address out-of-control medical malpractice litigation, which is costly not only in direct terms, but also in its distortion of the way patient care is administered. We can start by capping non-economic damages, but the federal government should also encourage states to pursue additional reforms such as specialized health care courts or other alternatives for resolving conflicts.”
Romney also states that enacting “sensible changes” to our health care system will be one of his highest priorities as President. To read Governor Romney’s op-ed in full, click here.