House Republicans reportedly hope to place limits on certain damages in medical malpractice cases as part of their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times reports that their proposal would cap damages for pain and suffering and other “non-economic” factors at $250,000.
The measure would apply to procedures covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the ACA — or “Obamacare” — and, an insurance trade group added, employer-sponsored coverage, which is eligible for a federal tax break.
States could set different limits and economic damages — such as medical costs or lost wages — would not be capped. Juries would assign a percentage of responsibility to multiple parties involved in malpractice cases.
Republicans long argued that medical malpractice damages contributed to rising medical costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would trim $50 billion from the deficit over a 10-year period and that the use of diagnostic tests — which help shield doctors from liability — would drop slightly under the plan.
But the Times noted some studies that show malpractice costs, overall, represent about 2 percent of health spending in the U.S.
Critics, meanwhile, argued that the limits would prevent victims of egregious medical malpractice — particularly the poor and elderly — from receiving fair compensation for their injuries.
The proposal, the paper added, would also limit contingency fees charged by lawyers in health care lawsuits, and doctors and pharmacists prescribing or dispensing FDA-approved drugs or medical devices could not be named in product liability lawsuits.
The prospects of the bill, however, remain firmly up in the air as Republicans attempt to revive health care legislation after dramatically pulling a controversial measure to repeal the ACA last month.