Chances for liability caps fade

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Deficit-reduction plan to gain $600 billion from lower provider payments and higher beneficiary prem
Deficit-reduction plan to gain $600 billion from lower provider payments and higher beneficiary prem

The chances that Congress will pass medical liability reform grew dimmer after a hearing this week in the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX).

Republicans had their hopes up after a House Judiciary Committee vote in February that was in favor of the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare” (HEALTH) Act. That bill would have capped liability at $250,000 and divided damages among the liable parties based on their percentage of liability. But some state legislators have voiced concern that the matter should be decided by states, not the federal government. Members of the National Conference of State Legislatures wrote a letter to members of the House this week saying Congress is taking a one-size-fits-all approach to tort reform, The Hill reported.

While similar versions of the HEALTH Act have been introduced over the years, they generally stall in the Senate, and Burgess told reporters Wednesday that the bill was unlikely to move forward. Provider groups, including long-term care associations and the American Hospital Association, insist reform is still needed.

"An estimated $50 to $100 billion is spent annually on defensive medicine - services not provided for the primary purpose of benefiting the patient, but rather to mitigate the risk of liability,” said the AHA in a statement.