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U.S. House Backs Comprehensive Medical Liability Reform

June 29, 2017

The U.S. House passed comprehensive medical liability reform legislation, H.R. 1215, Protecting Access to Care Act, to improve access to quality, affordable health care and reduce the burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.

The reforms are intended to 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 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

The legislation relies upon a federal link—the policy would apply to health care lawsuits where coverage was provided through a federal program, subsidy, or tax benefit.

An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office projects the legislation would lower costs for health care by lowering medical liability insurance premiums, and reducing pressure on health care providers to practice defensive medicine.

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.

CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that H.R. 1215 would reduce deficits by almost $50 billion during the 2017–2027 period.

HAP supports federal liability reform efforts—including this comprehensive legislation and targeted relief to protect access to emergency services. The association also is working at the state level to improve the liability climate in Pennsylvania, which continues to rank poorly when compared to other states.

HAP is a founding member of The Pennsylvania Coalition for Civil Justice Reform, a statewide organization working to raise awareness about civil justice issues and advocating for legal reforms.

For more information about HAP’s work to improve Pennsylvania’s liability environment, please contact Scott Bishop, HAP’s senior vice president, legislative advocacy. For questions about liability reform at the federal level, please contact Laura Stevens Kent, HAP’s vice president, federal advocacy.

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