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Cap or no cap?

Plaintiff’s lawyers and the medical industry have waged a continuous war over malpractice suits. Both sides have accused the other of seemingly unlimited power. However, in terms of lobbying dollars, trial lawyers spent $6 million in 2016, a mere fraction of the health care industries outlay of $563 million.

It seems that the larger amount was well spent and may pay off.

Medical professionals who are the subject of malpractice lawsuits may now see significant relief in the near future. On February 28, the House Judiciary Committee passed legislation that would cap damages paid by doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.

Many states already limit awards paid by individual providers. The bill would cover those insured under the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and veterans or military healthcare plans. It could also affect people covered under COBRA or a health savings plan.

The cap specifically limits pain and suffering damages to $250,000. However, the bill does not limit recovery of economic damages that include lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and out-of-pocket costs.

The legislation would also provide immunity to drug companies in cases where patients were harmed by FDA-approved prescriptions.

Proponents cite a cap on malpractice claims helps medical professionals’ focus on patients, not on defending their decisions and overall reputations in court against claims where far too many lack merit.

Opponents decry a potentially bad precedent set that would usurp state rights and preempt their more plaintiff-friendly laws. They tried to introduce amendments to preserve protections for residents of nursing homes and victims of surgeons leaving items in their bodies. All of those proposals were rejected.

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