House votes to limit damages from medical malpractice lawsuits

CAL/AAEM News Service at
Thu Jul 20 13:42:08 PDT 2017



June 28, 2017


House votes to limit damages from medical malpractice lawsuits



d=a489da7aee&e=2e43e628d0> California Medical Association



By Cristina Marcos

The House passed legislation on Wednesday to limit damages from medical
malpractice lawsuits as part of the GOP effort to reform the healthcare


Republicans passed the bill with few votes to spare in a 218-210 roll call
vote. A total of 19 GOP lawmakers from both the centrist and most
conservative wings of the party voted against the bill, as did all House


The bill would cap noneconomic damages, such as emotional suffering, to
$250,000. The bill would also establish a three-year statute of limitations
after an injury, or one year after the discovery of an injury.


The provisions would apply to healthcare lawsuits where coverage was
provided or subsidized by the federal government. The bill would preempt
state laws, unless they already specify a shorter time period for the
statute of limitations or a particular amount of damages that can be awarded
in a lawsuit.


Economic losses, like medical costs and lost wages, would be fully


Proponents of the measure said it would help bring down costs of healthcare
and increase availability of doctors. They pointed to litigation reforms in
California to lower medical malpractice liability insurance premiums for
healthcare providers as the basis for the legislation considered on the
House floor on Wednesday.


"Healthcare costs are out of control due in large part to unlimited lawsuits
and other problems ObamaCare failed to solve or ObamaCare made worse," said
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), the author of the bill. 


The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the legislation would reduce
the deficit by about $50 billion over 10 years. The nonpartisan budget
scorekeeper calculated the deficit reduction based on the expectation in
part that the bill would lower premiums for medical liability insurance.


Members of the libertarian-leaning Liberty Caucus oppose the bill because of
concerns that it unconstitutionally preempts state laws.


"To support H.R. 1215 while elsewhere decrying the growth of the federal
government would be to turn federalism into a mere rhetorical tool to be
trotted out when it happens to further an agenda," Matt Weibel, the
executive director of the Liberty Caucus, wrote.


In floor debate, Democrats warned that the bill would deny full compensation
to victims of medical malpractice.


Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary
Committee, noted that children, women and low-income people have been more
likely to receive noneconomic damages because they're often not able to
establish economic losses like lost wages in malpractice lawsuits.


"Imposing a severe limit on noneconomic damages, therefore, hurts them
disproportionately," Conyers said. "This bill would cause real harm by
severely limiting the ability of victims to be made whole."




Jeff Wells
Deputy Editor, CAL/AAEM News Service


Brian Potts MD, MBA
Managing Editor, CAL/AAEM News Service

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