Outside Influence, Alternative Facts, and Rushed Votes: Medical Malpractice

Earlier this week, the Washington Post published an article about the influence of lobbyists on legislation that would decimate patients’ rights and eliminate fair compensation for non-economic damages, frequently referred to as pain and suffering. The article comes on the heels of public declarations by heads of lobbyist groups who claim that H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, was passed in the House and used nearly identical language to the drafts they submitted to Representatives. The Washington Post quotes New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries: “Large business groups are writing these bills. This has got to stop.” The House passed H.R. 1215 with a vote of 218-210 in July. The Senate is due to take a summer recess before Congress reconvenes after Labor Day. A Senate vote on H.R. 1215 will likely take place in September.

The Washington Post also touches on the swiftness with which some of the recently proposed bills have been passed, as well as the rarity of a bill that concerns something as large as tort reform being voted on without hearings from public interest groups and other outside parties. The article points out that the Senate’s recent attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was also voted on without public input.

Big Business Lobbyists Scoring Major Victories
After less than 8 months in office, there have been several large victories for the pro-businessTrump Administration and big business groups and lobbyists. The Post notes that in addition to a House victory enforcing caps on non-economic damages, Trump was able to overturn prior law that made it more challenging for those with mental illnesses to obtain guns. He also eliminated laws that prevented internet companies from selling a customer’s browsing history to third party groups.

Alternative Facts Influencing Laws that Affect Us All
The future of patients’ rights is uncertain until a Senate vote on H.R. 1215 takes place. One thing is for sure: While it has always been known that lobbyists influence policymakers, the fact that many are using false information to sway opinion and votes is unsettling. Insurance companies and physicians groups have constantly restated alternative facts regarding the influence of medical malpractice lawsuits on insurance premiums, the way doctors practice medicine, and the increasing cost of healthcare. The actual facts, however, are indisputable: Paid medical malpractice claims decreased by 55.7% between 1992-2014 according to a study led by a group of physicians at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. According to the federal government, medical malpractice lawsuits had fallen to the lowest level ever in 2015. And just as worthy of consideration? The majority of Americans, those of us whom policymakers are supposed to represent, are against limiting their right to fair non-economic damages in lawsuits.

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