AMCNO Voices Support for HR 5 – The “HEALTH” Act
House Republicans have introduced medical liability reform legislation that would cap damage awards. The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Health Care Act of 2011 would limit noneconomic damages to $250,000, and punitive damages to the greater of $250,000 or twice the amount of economic damages. It would not preempt state laws that establish higher or lower damage limits.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R, Ga.), an obstetrician-gynecologist, sponsored the bill as a replacement for the health reform law because he said the legislation would save billions of taxpayer dollars by reducing defensive medicine. The HEALTH Act also would set a statute of limitations on filing health care lawsuits of one year after a patient discovers -- or should have discovered -- an injury, or three years after the injury, whichever occurs first. The bill is modeled on liability reforms that have been on the books inCaliforniasince 1975. The House has adopted previous versions of the measure numerous times during the past decade, but the Senate has never followed suit.
Many organizations support the bill, including the AMCNO. In the AMCNO’s letter to Dr. Gingrey, the AMCNO President, Dr. Laura David said that “defending a medical liability claim is expensive and long, taking an average of five years to resolve. Statistics have shown that more than 60 percent of liability claims against physicians are dropped, withdrawn or dismissed without payment.” However, even these types of cases have a price – according to the Ohio Department of Insurance the average cost to defend a medical liability claim inNorthern Ohiowas $35,429.00 in 2009.
In his Jan. 25 State of the Union address to lawmakers, President Obama said he would be open to considering "medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits" but did not elaborate. He previously has acknowledged the problem of defensive medicine costs and frivolous lawsuits, but repeatedly has said he opposes caps on damage awards.