Medical Malpractice Redux – H.R. 5

Another State of the Union Address has come and gone and there is once again a sense of excitement in the air. In this year’s address, the President stated, “I am willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

Is President Obama truly serious this time about taking another look at medical malpractice reform? CALA has long stated that to reform healthcare and not look at medical malpractice reform or defensive medicine is just to completely miss the point. These areas have to be reformed when tackling the issue of healthcare reform.

Lo and behold, here comes H.R. 5., the HEALTH Act of 2011. This bill by Rep. John Gingrey (R-GA) will give the President the opportunity to back up his words with action. It contains, among many things, a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages, which is similar to a reform we have in California that the trial lawyers cannot stand. H.R. 5 even puts caps on contingency fees and eliminates punitive damages for products that meet FDA standards.

H.R. 5 will certainly not please the Consumer Attorneys of California, and could not have come at a worse time for them. Just when they were contemplating trying to tear down MICRA, California’s landmark medical malpractice reform law, H.R. 5 will command their attention at the national level.

The MICRA law in California has kept insurance costs down, increased access for millions of patients to doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, and saved the average Californian family hundreds of dollars on health care.

Only time will tell whether the President is serious about medical malpractice reform or not. The reforms you see in H.R. 5 have been proven to work. I know the President is not crazy about caps, but he would be wise to take a serious look at how they have worked in California and Texas. If he does, signing H.R. 5 will be an easy decision.