Today on NPR.org, journalist Michelle Andrews detailed the components of H.R. 1215 (The Protecting Access to Care Act) and used research to debunk all of the myths that H.R. 1215 supporters have been perpetuating. The changes that H.R. 1215 would implement are massive and with little benefit to Americans. Instead, the law heavily favors insurance companies and providers, leaving victims of medical error, pharmaceutical and device defects, and nursing home abuse and neglect victims with little recourse when things go wrong. And we know they do. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S.
What is H.R. 1215?
The Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, is separate from the Better Care Act of 2017 (initially called the American Health Care Act of 2017 by the House, renamed to BCA by the Senate). The Better Care Act of 2017 was set to be voted on this week by the Senate, but was recently delayed until after July 4th. The Better Care Act is the Republican answer to the repealing and replacing Obamacare. In contrast, H.R. 1215 is related to medical malpractice and lawsuits.
The three components are:
- A $250,000 federal cap on non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are things that are hard to put a dollar amount on. Justia.org describes them as “pain, emotional anguish, humiliation, reputational damage, loss of enjoyment of activities, or worsening of prior injuries.” Losing a limb, suffering brain damage and enduring infertility all fall under non-economic damages. After economic damages are assessed, juries are asked to consider non-economic damages, which attempt to compensate a victim for all that has been lost from a non-financial perspective. The purpose of non-economic damages isn’t to make the injured rich, but rather to afford them the ability to seek out ways they can enjoy life again. For example, a large non-economic award will not restore a woman’s fertility after a surgical error, but it will help pay for an adoption or a surrogate.
- A 3 year statute of limitations. The statute of limitations would be 3 years from the date of injury, or 1 year from the date the victim discovers the injury, whichever comes first.
- A limit on what attorneys can recover in fees. Most medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and neglect, and personal injury attorneys are only paid if they recover money for the client. The cost of bringing a lawsuit to the court is extremely expensive and requires the attorney to front the expenses until money is awarded.
Why is H.R. 1215 Detrimental to the Rights of Americans?
While supporters of the bill believe it will lower malpractice premiums, prevent doctors from practicing defensive medicine, and encourage only legitimate lawsuits, the reality of what H.R. 1215 would do is quite harsh. In short, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits is down (by nearly 60% in the last 25 years) and malpractice premiums are as high as ever. Doctors themselves argue that defensive medicine is taught in medical school and aggressively looking for the cause of an illness or condition is embedded in their training. And lastly, limiting what attorneys can recover in fees presents an unfortunate situation for victims. With the costs of bringing forth a lawsuit, many attorneys will be hesitant to take on a legitimate case that would be difficult to litigate. Anything that isn’t an obvious win could prevent good attorneys from taking valid cases. Instead of Protecting Access to Care, H.R. 1215 would prevent victims from being properly compensated for devastating injuries and trauma, provide virtually no savings to the federal budget, and prevent victims from being able to secure legal representation.
Please call your members of Congress now and encourage them to vote against H.R. 1215.
Using this link from Take Justice Back, you can call your members of Congress by visiting www.takejusticeback.com/protectpatients. Please act now. Voting is scheduled to take place TODAY, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.