GOP eyes medical tort reform

Healthcare Dive
Wednesday, April 5, 2017

By Meg Bryant

With a business-friendly president in the Oval Office, Republicans in Congress are hoping 2017 will be the year for major tort reforms. Currently, at least four bills are advancing in the House, all aimed at protecting doctors and corporations from frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary costs. Despite evidence to the contrary, proponents of the bills say trivial lawsuits are driving malpractice insurance premiums ever higher and driving doctors out of business.

One measure, the Protecting Access to Care Act, would cap noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits at $250,000. Currently, there is no federal limit on monetary awards for noneconomic damages, which includes pain and suffering. …

The Center for Justice & Democracy has criticized the bill, saying it will “greatly weaken the accountability of unsafe hospitals, incompetent doctors, nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies that injure or kill patients.” The group notes, for example, that the federally mandated statute of limitations is more restrictive than a majority of state laws.

According to an analysis last year in BMJ, more than 250,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors. Another report, by CRICO Strategies, concluded that miscommunications involving EHRs cost the U.S. $1.7 billion in malpractice claims and nearly 2,000 lives between 2009 and 2013. Still, while malpractice lawsuits and defensive medicine comprise about 3% of the nation’s $3.2 trillion healthcare bill, stricter tort laws won’t guarantee more affordable care, The Washington Post notes.

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