Big changes may be on the horizon for the state of medicine in America. Changes to Obamacare have just been proposed that would take away the tax imposition for those who don’t carry health insurance. Just one of the three-part changes promised by the Trump Administration, the health insurance industry is not the only healthcare system that will likely be challenged and altered over the next several years. Another possible change is a push to cap damages awarded by the courts for medical malpractice.
Insurance costs for physicians have skyrocketed over the past several decades. Doctors are increasingly worried about the decisions they make, due to the risk of being sued for malpractice. Being guided by lawsuits, however, might not be doing the patients any favors. Legislation is slated to hit the House Committee that would make it harder for patients to be awarded large sums of money due to malpractice.
Already approved by the House Judiciary Committee, the new legislation would put a cap on the damages allowed for victims of malpractice. The measure would include nursing homes, hospitals and physicians alike. Many states already have caps in place for recovering for malpractice. The legislation would encompass patients on Medicaid, Veterans or Military Health recipients, Medicare and those who are covered under the Affordable Care Act, along with those who either have health saving plans or COBRA for their health insurance coverage.
Leading the charge is Iowa Representative Steve King (R). He believes the medical profession should use malpractice suits to prevent further mistakes in the healthcare industry.
Like many other issues in the US, malpractice caps appear to fall along political lines. Democrats are enraged by the proposed cap on damages. Representatives like Ted Deutch believe that the legal system should work to compensate those who are injured, not be used for teaching purposes.
Obviously, those who are lobbying for the medical industry and medical professionals are delighted about the legislation and would love to see a cap in place. A legal malpractice attorney Atlanta, believe that many malpractice awards are out of control and not comparable to the damages that result. They also believe that the high awards negatively impact the health care that people receive and lead to decisions based more on fear of litigation than on common-sense medicine.
What has really incensed the Democrats who voted against the cap measure is that only specific insurance coverage has been singled out to cap awards. For those who can afford private insurance, it appears that there is no limit to their damage recovery. That unfairly disadvantages veterans and those who are dependent upon state-run health care programs, which creates a systematic bias in medical malpractice litigation.
Also at issue is the rapid movement of the bill’s passage. The bill has been up for review numerous times over the course of the past several decades and has always been voted down. The expeditiousness of the bill this time around is likely due to the Republican predominance in both houses.
Many believe the bill will not only shield doctors from medical mistakes, but also cover pharmaceutical companies for personal injury suits. It will also put caps on the damages that pharmaceutical companies are compelled to pay when someone is injured. That could lead to dangerous drugs being allowed in the marketplace far longer than they should be.
It might also give immunity to drug companies when patients are harmed by FDA-approved drugs, which could mean that many who are injured by mass-produced medicines would not be eligible to receive fair compensation.
Although it doesn’t put a cap on recovery for economic damages, the bill would top out the amount that patients are entitled to for their pain and suffering to a maximum of $250,000. Many legislators believe that will unfairly disadvantage children and the elderly. Since those two populations would suffer minimal economic damages, they would be disproportionately awarded less for their malpractice suits.
Putting a cap on what patients of malpractice can be granted, especially according to their insurance coverage, might be doing the least-served populations a disservice and further put them at an economic advantage. Many lawmakers wonder who is winning more: the drug companies or healthcare companies who have been lobbying for this type of measure for decades.