House committee approves tort reform proposal — again

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House committee approves tort reform proposal — again
House committee approves tort reform proposal — again
House Republicans recently moved one step closer to passing a key tort reform bill. Following an 18-15 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act,” went to the full House for consideration.

During the committee's markup of the HEALTH Act, Republicans rejected all but one Democratic proposal. It would eliminate language from the bill that would allow any party to introduce evidence of “collateral source benefits,” or compensation from other sources, in any healthcare lawsuit involving injury or wrongful death. Notably, the bill would limit noneconomic and punitive damages in medical lawsuits.

The bill would cap liability at $250,000, and divide the damages among the liable parties based on their percentage of liability. A number of healthcare groups have signaled their support for the House Republicans' tort reform plan, including the American Health Care Association.

Some rejected Democratic amendments to the tort reform bill included a provision that would exempt cases involving children from the law, and another that would allow the damage cap of $250,000 to rise with inflation.
Various versions of the HEALTH Act have passed through the House numerous times over the past decade, only to die in the Senate.

Meanwhile, President Obama proposed $250 million in Justice Department grants to help states adopt reforms that fall in line with recommendations made last year by the bipartisan debt reduction commission—10 times the amount his administration invested in tort reform research during the healthcare debates.

Approved uses for the new grants specifically exclude funding reforms that include caps on jury awards — one of the key features of the Republicans' new tort reform law.

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