Healthcare Leaders Urge U.S. Senate Action on House-Passed Medical Liability Reform Legislation

Measure Should Be Improved, HLC President Says, By Linking Liability Protection to Evidence-Based Medical Practice

WASHINGTON – Following the U.S. House’s passage last week of legislation that would bring much-needed reforms to the nation’s medical liability system, a coalition of health industry leaders is calling upon the U.S. Senate to take up the measure when it returns from its Independence Day recess.

The House bill, the “Protecting Access to Care Act,” would cap attorneys’ fees so injured patients could keep a greater share of monetary damages, apportion the share of damages among defendants according to each one’s degree of responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries, and place caps on awards that go above and beyond the actual damages and costs an injury caused a plaintiff.

“This legislation mirrors at the federal level the model used in many states to improve their medical liability structures,” said Mary R. Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, an alliance of companies from all healthcare sectors.  “These laws provide justice for patients who have meritorious cases while protecting physicians and other medical providers from frivolous lawsuits.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House-passed bill, if enacted, would save taxpayers $55 billion over ten years while increasing tax revenues by $7 billion over the same period.

Ms. Grealy said the Senate could improve upon the House legislation by incorporating provisions from a bipartisan bill introduced in the House by Representatives Andy Barr (R-KY) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX).  Their bill, the “Saving Lives, Saving Costs Act,” would give healthcare providers who follow appropriate clinical practice guidelines the option of a prediscovery expert review prior to litigation.  This approach would promote adoption of evidence-based medical practices while preserving injured patients’ access to justice.

“Adopting the Barr-Cuellar approach would be a win-win for patients and the healthcare system,” said Ms. Grealy.  “More healthcare professionals would be incentivized to utilize evidence-based practice guidelines and give their patients the best standard of care, and we would  see fewer  frivolous lawsuits clogging our court system and fewer unnecessary tests and procedures increasing healthcare costs.”