Posted on 17 Feb 2011
The medical liability reform bill introduced last month by physician Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) was approved yesterday with a vote of 18-15 by members of the House Judiciary Commitee.
Committee members accepted only one of the measures that were presented to the tort-reform bill and accepted only one. That measure, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), strikes the section of the bill that says in any healthcare lawsuit involving injury or wrongful death, any party may introduce evidence of “collateral source benefits,” or compensation from other sources.
Ultimately, the law, known as Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Healthcare—HEALTH—Act of 2011, would limit non-economic damages to $250,000 and makes each party liable only for the amount of damages that is directly proportional to that party's percentage of responsibility.
The committee rejected a host of other amendments, including one from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-Fla.) that would have exempted children from the law, and one from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would have accounted for inflation in the $250,000 cap on non-economic damages. Nadler argued that without the amendment, the amount of damages would continue to decrease each year.
“Anyone who votes against this amendment is saying, in effect, that the recovery for all pain, for all suffering should eventually be zero,” Nadler said, shortly before the amendment was rejected. “I don't think we want to say that.”
Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said in the meeting that some members are working on an amendment to the bill that would empower states' rights, a measure Smith said would be made on the House floor. Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) objected, saying the committee should first consider the amendment.