The House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1215, also known as the ‘Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017’, on June 28th after a floor debate on June 27th that most observers believe will be a mere formality, lacking amendments that will significantly change the substance of the bill.
What makes the proposed act scary for plaintiffs who seek to bring claims against pharmaceutical companies, doctors and the insurance industry is that the bill caps the amount of damages they could receive to $250,000. Other aspects of the bill are also disadvantageous for claimants, and bear a closer look so that their true intent becomes clear.
What Is H.R. 1215?
The bill was introduced in the House in February 2017, and, “establishes provisions governing health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government, including through a subsidy or tax benefit.”
Health care subsidized by the government includes Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ‘ObamaCare’.
The main provisions of the bill, include:
- A statue of limitations of three years after an injury occurs, or 12 months after a plaintiff discovers an injury, whichever happens first. The ‘injury’ is commonly caused by the negligence or abuse of a health care facility, healthcare provider, or drug or medical device manufacturer.
- A cap of $250,000 for ‘noneconomic damages’, and juries cannot be told of this limitation during a trial.
- Courts can restrict and set limits on attorney contingency fees.
- Allows installment payments for future damage awards.
- Doctors who prescribe or dispense a drug or medical device that is FDA-approved cannot be sued if the plaintiff is also suing the manufacturer of the drug or device.
Why H.R. 1215 Is Bad For Plaintiffs
On the face of it, these proposals may not read as if they are especially restrictive, but a closer look tells a different story.
The one-year and three-year statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit is more restrictive than the time limit granted by the laws in many states, and effectively establishes a ticking clock on individual rights to sue beyond a three-year period.
Additionally, the cap for noneconomic damages means that even people who suffer significant and debilitating injuries that they must live with for the rest of their lives can only collect a maximum of $250,000 for their pain and suffering in these claims.
Furthermore, plaintiffs who win their claims would no longer be able to collect a lump-sum payment, but would be subjected to much longer waits to receive portions of the money a jury or judge awarded them for damages. Meanwhile, insurance companies would be able to generate interest on the money they would have paid if lump-sum payments had been required.
What’s even more concerning is that the bill completely prohibits you from suing a doctor and a drug company in the same class action suit. So, for example, if your doctor improperly installed a medical device that caused you serious injury, or caused the death of a loved one, you couldn’t sue that doctor and the device’s manufacturer in the same claim.
It’s clear that the real intent behind this House bill is to grant the federal government the power to override existing state laws regarding the means available to claimants who want to file lawsuits against doctors who have breached their duty to patients.
If this bill passes, only big hospitals, for-profit nursing home facilities and big insurance companies would benefit.
Fighting For You
At Miller Kory Rowe LLP our team is dedicated, aggressive and principled, and no matter what happens with H.R. 1215, we will continue to provide you with outstanding and experienced service in all our specialties, including medical malpractice and wrongful death. Please call us today at (602) 461-8640 for a free legal consultation.