On June 28, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed medical tort reform legislation intended to help lower the cost of health insurance by lessening the financial burden of medical lawsuits. The House passed the Protecting Access to Care Act, H.R. 1215, which implements medical malpractice reform by capping plaintiff non-economic damages at $250,000 for a medical liability lawsuit related healthcare that was funded in any way by the federal government. Economic losses, like medical costs and lost wages, would be fully compensated under the Act.
The Act, if passed, would apply to medical malpractice lawsuits related to coverage provided from government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. It could potentially affect healthcare that is paid for in part by these programs as well.
In addition to the financial cap, the proposed Act sets a three-year deadline for filing a medical liability lawsuits one year after the claimant discovers the injury, whichever occurs first. The statute of limitation varies slightly depending upon whether the individual is a minor under the age of 8 or 6. The proposal also provides limits on attorney fees.
Proposed by Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, the legislation was passed by a vote of 218-210, predominantly with party-line GOP support. The bill now goes to the Senate. It is anticipated that the Democrats may filibuster this bill as what they perceive to be an infringement on injured plaintiffs’ rights as well as state prerogatives.
Approximately half of the states do not cap noneconomic damages. The Illinois Supreme Court has previously ruled that a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases is unconstitutional.