By JW Law
Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a primary goal of Republicans for years. With that goal now in sight, thanks to President Donald Trump’s emphatic rejection of Obamacare, GOP lawmakers have begun to push for sweeping health care reforms that go beyond repealing and replacing.
Top Republican lawmakers and Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Tom Price introduced a frivolous “med- mal” reform bill.
What do you need to know about the new bill?
The House bill, if approved, would set a $250,000 limit on “non-economic damages,” which include compensation for pain and suffering, though states could set different limits.
The proposed bill would impose new limits on claims involving care covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. The limits would also apply to some product liability claims which means, a doctor who prescribes a drug or medical device “approved, licensed, or cleared by the Food and Drug Administration” may not be named in a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer or seller of the product.
The bill provides similar protection for pharmacists who fill prescriptions. The bill would restrict contingency fees that lawyers can charge for representing plaintiffs in health care lawsuits.
Beltway Republicans, have for long argued that frivolous lawsuits are primary drivers of health care costs, as is wasteful “defensive medicine” (Medical practices designed to ward off the possibility of malpractice suits.) Some have even claimed that medical malpractice is a crisis that is threatening U.S. healthcare.
However the numbers paint a different picture: According to research published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the number of paid medical malpractice claims in the United States has declined significantly, dropping nearly 56 percent between 1992 and 2014. The data for the research was collected from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a centralized database of paid malpractice claims.
In a Washington Post article, Nicholas Pace a researcher who studies the civil justice system at the Rand Corp., a nonprofit policy think tank was quoted saying, “It’s a time of relative calm, and this hasn’t been a front-burner issue or crisis. But now Republicans see an opportunity to make changes they have wanted for a long time as they replace Obamacare.”
Javerbaum Wurgaft’s medical malpractice attorney Saul Gruber weighs in on the issue.
For the most part, medical malpractice tort law is a state-based issue. Congress has no authority, neither legally or practically, under the constitution to introduce federal medical malpractice reforms. State authorities have the right to promulgate the standards of medical care in their states.
“It is a state issue and not a federal issue. By introducing the bill, it (advocates in Congress) infringes on the 10th amendment,” said Gruber. “However it is doing so under ‘reconciliation’ which is a budgetary concern, it is an exception and one that is questionable.”
So how does this affect me?
“This will take rights away from everyone,” said Gruber, explaining, “Proponents of tort reform bill claim that it will lessen their insurance premiums and also reduce the healthcare cost as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has estimated $54 billion saving over ten years in ‘defensive medicine’. However, there are several studies that show that there is no significant impact of tort reform on reducing healthcare costs and that reforms using caps might actually increase health care spending.”
Jeffery A. Singer, a general surgeon and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, in his article for Reason.com, listed a number of studies that suggest “that the medical tort reform bill may not be the panacea the politicians and pundits profess to be.”