GOP Bill Seeks to Restrict Medical Malpractice Rights for Consumers

Republican lawmakers are making a second attempt to amend the Affordable Healthcare Act, proposing controversial provisions that actually attack the ability of the elderly and low-income individuals to obtain fair compensation in medical malpractice lawsuits.

According to a recent report by New York Times, the effort by GOP members of the Congress to replace what is commonly known as Obamacare would limit medical malpractice rights by imposing limits on non-economic damages for individuals receiving benefits through Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance plans subsidized by the government.

Critics point out that the proposal is specifically aimed at limiting the legal rights of low-income individuals and the elderly, who are the most frequent users of Medicare and Medicaid, but may also have an impact on those who receive medical insurance through their work.

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According to the New York Times, a draft of the bill includes a provision that sets a $250,000 limit on non-economic damages by those who receive government-subsidized health insurance, receive healthcare through a government program, or are the recipient of tax benefits from health care coverage.

Non-economic damage caps limit the amount that certain individuals can receive as compensation for pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and punitive damages designed to discourage defendants from reckless endangerment or gross negligence, among others.

If approved, the measure would impact medical malpractice rights for certain individuals, unfairly restricting their ability to be compensated for serious, crippling or even fatal injuries caused by preventable medical mistakes. However, it would also severely impact compensation that can be obtained in nursing home abuse and neglect cases.

Proponents argue that the measure is designed to cut down on the costs associated with medical malpractice litigation, and thus the cost of healthcare. However, researchers have repeatedly found that medical malpractice costs make up a miniscule portion of healthcare costs, and critics point out that the tort reforms are largely an attempt to protect small groups at the expense of disadvantaging and taking away consumer rights.

A report issued in February by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen found that medical malpractice payments are at historic and all-time lows, indicating that in 2015, the most recent full year of data available, the malpractice costs accounted for only one-tenth of one percent of all healthcare costs. In addition. the number of malpractice payments doled out by doctors was the lowest on record.

The study also found that medical liability insurance premium payments are at a historic low as well, reaching their lowest levels since at least 2003, and only accounted for 0.3% of health care costs in 2015.

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