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U.S. House Committee Seeks to Tackle Health Care Costs through Liability Reform

February 28, 2017

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee today advanced, 18 to 17, comprehensive medical liability reform legislation, H.R. 1215, Protecting Access to Care Act, intended to improve access to quality, affordable health care. The goal of the legislation is to reduce the burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system. U.S. Congressman Tom Marino (PA-10) voted in favor of this legislation.

Under the current medical liability system, resources are unnecessarily diverted from patient care. Defensive medicine is a practice in which a health care provider exercises an over-abundance of caution by pursuing tests and treatments to mitigate the risk of potential lawsuits. This practice costs the health care system an estimated $50 to $100 billion annually.

Medical liability reform can help make health care more affordable and efficient, and ensure resources are maximized to benefit patients.

Modeled after the successful reform legislation enacted in California—the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act—the federal legislation reviewed today would:

  • Ensure fair and adequate compensation, including noneconomic damages, for patients seeking recovery of claims for a health care injury
  • Promote the timely resolution of claims
  • Provide greater certainty and maximize the payment of damages to the patient

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the liability reforms outlined in the legislation would reduce the federal deficit by tens of billions of dollars over the next decade. Additionally, the CBO estimated premiums for medical malpractice insurance ultimately would be an average of 25 to 30 percent below what they would be under current law.

The Committee also considered legislation, H.R. 372, the Competitive Health Insurance Reform Act, that would repeal the McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption available to health insurers for anticompetitive conduct. The hospital community has supported efforts to ensure anti-trust laws and policies achieve a pro-competitive purpose.

HAP will continue to work with federal lawmakers to identify avenues to reduce the cost of care. Specific to liability reform, HAP has advocated at the state and federal level for legislation that promotes greater patient safety, ensures continued access to critical services, and lowers the cost of care.

Please contact Laura Stevens Kent, vice president, federal advocacy, with questions regarding federal activity on liability reform and efforts to ensure the efficient use of health care dollars.

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