Malpractice award cap bill will help LTC, group claims

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Parkinson: The bill “helps at a time when we need it the most.”
Parkinson: The bill “helps at a time when we need it the most.”

House lawmakers approved legislation in late June that would place limits on awards for medical malpractice cases — a move that would benefit long-term care, according to one provider group.

H.R. 1215, known as the Protecting Access to Care Act, would place a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in healthcare-related lawsuits where coverage of the care was provided by the federal government. The act passed the House on June 28 largely on partisan lines by a 218-210 vote; all 191 Democratic representatives opposed the bill, along with 19 Republicans.

The bill earned praise from long-term care providers, with one group stating that its House passage couldn't come at a more opportune time.

“Rising liability costs to an already underfunded sector not only threatens access to care but can also cost jobs,” said Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living. “This legislation helps at a time when we need it the most. Now more than ever, it's important to preserve dwindling resources to improve the lives of those who need it.”

The bill did not receive as warm a reception from attorneys' groups, who fear it will prioritize providers' interests while putting patients at risk.

“H.R. 1215 shamefully protects negligent medical providers, abusive nursing home corporations and careless drug companies when they place profits ahead of quality care,” said Julie Braman Kane, president of the American Association for Justice. “If this bill becomes law, victims and their loved ones will be unable to hold those responsible accountable.”

The bill's next stop was the Senate, where similar bills have died or been extinguished in the past.