A bipartisan group of House of
Representatives members is trying to pass a medical malpractice reform bill.
Medical liability reform disappeared along with the Patients’ Bill of Rights,
in which it was included, when the House and Senate failed to agree on a
compromise version of the bill at the end of 1999.
Managed care reform lost its
impetus, and the decision by the St. Paul Companies (the number 2 medical
malpractice insurer) to abandon that market, stirred the physician community.
Hundreds of Texas physicians staged a 1-day strike in March 2002 to protest
In the last week of April, the The HEALTH (Help Efficient,
Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Health Care) Act was introduced. The bipartisan
bill (1) limits the number of years a plaintiff has to file a health-care
liability action to ensure that claims are brought while evidence and witnesses
are available; (2) allocates damages in proportion to a party’s degree of
fault; (3) allows patients to recover economic damages such as future medical
expenses and loss of future earnings while establishing a cap of $250,000 on
noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering; (4) limits punitive damages to
the greater of two times the amount of economic damages awarded or $250,000.
Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif), a sponsor of the legislation,
says it is patterned after a current California lawthe Medical Injury
Compensation Reform Act. Donald J. Palmisano, MD, JD, secretary-treasurer of the
American Medical Association, which supports the bill, says, "Because of
the sky-high cost of liability insurance, physicians throughout the country are
limiting their practices, some have stopped delivering babies, and some are even
leaving the practice of medicine completely. Unless the hemorrhaging costs of
the current medical liability system are addressed, patients will continue to
face erosion in access to care."