The party of “states’ rights” and “smaller government” stepped all over those rights and enlarged the federal government’s reach into the rights of citizens to seek justice and recompense when they are negligently injured by doctors and hospitals by passing the ironically named “Protecting Access to Care Act” or (PACA) in the House of Representatives yesterday. The vote was 218 to 210 along party lines.
According to House Republicans, patients who sue their doctors and hospitals for negligent treatment are the cause of soaring health care costs in the US. In fact, the introduction of the Bill describes it as “A Bill to improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.”
Despite House Republicans’ claim that liability drives the costs of health care, studies have shown that only 2.4% of total US healthcare costs are due to medical negligence liability costs. In fact, since 2013, there has been a 27% decrease in medical negligence costs while during the same time period overall healthcare costs have risen 64%!! Obviously, the Republican math is off—by a lot!
In essence, if passed by Congress and signed by Mr. Trump, the bill would limit the amount of damages a patient could recover, shorten the time in which a lawsuit could be brought, and grant immunity to medical providers from claims alleged in class-action lawsuits against drug or device manufacturers. These changes and others (see below) would take the place of individual states’ laws regarding these issues.
This bill would:
- Impose limits on the contingency fees of victims’ attorneys. Despite state laws to the contrary, and disregarding any contract between a lawyer and her client, under this bill an attorney could receive only 40% of the first $50,000 awarded to an injured patient, 33% of the next $50,000, 25% of the next $500,000, and 15% of damages topping $600,000.
- Exempt clinicians from any responsibility if she ordered a drug or medical device involved in a class-action or product-liability lawsuits;
- Permit health care providers found negligent by a jury (or who agree to settle a case out of court) to pay damages in installments instead of all at once when the damages awarded exceed $50,000;
- Replace joint-and-several liability with a Fair Share rule. Under joint-and-several liability, a plaintiff can recover all court-awarded damages from one of several defendants, even if he or she is only partly responsible for the injury. The Fair Share rule divvies up damages among multiple defendants based on their percentage of responsibility.
- Shorten the Statute of Limitations for medical negligence claims—the statute of limitations for a medical negligence suit would be 3 years after the date of the wrongful act, or 1 year after the plaintiff discovers it, whichever comes first.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration and likely revision, but the aim of the Bill is clear: it is to protect the moneyed interests of the insurance companies.
Please call or write your Representative and tell them that you don’t want the Federal government trampling on your state’s laws concerning when you can bring a medical negligence suit or who you can sue. And, tell them the only persons who should be able to decide what damages should be awarded in a lawsuit is the jury—your peers.
Don’t know who your Representative is, or how to get in contact? Go HERE.