A proposed tort reform bill introduced in January blatantly tries to protect doctors and drug companies from lawsuits while harming patient rights. The bill, part of Healthcare Reform, is raising concerns among consumer organizations and patient protection groups. The bill, H.R. 5, Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011, would make it harder for injured patients to file personal injury lawsuits against negligent caregivers, defective drug or medical device manufacturers, and nursing homes that neglect or abuse patients.
Limiting Injured Patient Compensation
The most alarming aspects of the bill include arbitrary caps on settlements, a statute of limitations that would apply nationwide, barring of punitive damages in cases where the FDA has approved a drug or medical device, and prevention of healthcare providers from recovering the cost of benefits paid for negligent injuries. H.R. 5 would:
- Set conditions on lawsuits stemming from injuries caused by health care goods or services.
- Create a national statute of limitations extending to three years from the date an injury manifests or one year from the date an injury is discovered.
- Limit damages other than economic costs to $250,000.
- Stop benefits providers from recovering any part of an award.
The bill would only authorize punitive damages, capped at $250,000, in cases where compensatory damages exist and there is proven malicious intent to injure, or a deliberate failure to avoid unnecessary injury.
Making a Bad Situation Worse
H.R. 5 essentially gives drug companies, device manufacturers and doctors free reign to treat more patients in less time because they could be less careful about patient safety. America already has an unacceptable level of medical errors. This bill will only worsen the situation.
Tort Reform is Not the Answer
Those in favor of the bill say that it would control rising healthcare costs by lowering insurance premiums for doctors. Public Citizen and other consumer groups discussed the fallacy of this argument in a letter to Congress. “Medical malpractice premiums for doctors, inflation-adjusted, are nearly the lowest they have been in over 30 years and they may go even lower. This drop in rates is happening everywhere in the country whether or not a state has enacted “tort reform” laws.”
This law would make it so difficult for injured patients to recover damages that the costs of medical care and disability payments would fall on government agencies and disability insurers. Instead of the negligent doctors and drug companies footing the bill, taxpayers will have to cover the cost through Medicaid and Medicare. The bill simply shifts the burden of malpractice consequences from the negligent party to the taxpayer, without any significant savings on healthcare costs.
If you or someone you love suffered injury from medical malpractice or a defective medical device or drug, contact our office. Our experienced attorneys will provide you with a free review of your case. We will work with you to ensure that you receive full compensation for damages you have incurred because of the injury. Damages may include lost wages, pain and suffering and medical expenses.