House lawmakers contemplate federal med mal damages cap

As we mentioned in our last post, law makers in the House of Representatives are reportedly considering a measure that would establish a federal cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

The legislation, which has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee, would cap non-economic damages at $250,000. The cap would apply not only to damages paid out by doctors, but also by hospitals and nursing home facilities, specifically to patients who are insured under federal health plans like Medicare and Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, veterans or military health plans, and perhaps even those covered under COBRA and health savings plans. 

The measure passed by a slim margin, with primarily Democrats voicing opposition to the bill, calling it a threat to patient protections and to states’ rights. Some states have set aside damages caps as unconstitutional.

Some lawmakers have suggested that the legislation, as it stands, could indirectly protect pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers, as the measure also gives immunity to drug companies whose FDA-approved prescriptions harm patients.

It remains to be seen how much support the bill will gain, but is wouldn’t be surprising if it doesn’t get far, especially in the current political climate where there is bound to be a lot of resistance against interests that are perceived as business-friendly. For better or worse, healthcare is a business and this legislation is hard to not view as an overreach in favor of business.

Those who have been harmed by a negligent physician have the right to seek just compensation, and it is always important to work with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to build the strongest possible damages case. This is especially important in cases where non-economic damages are an important aspect of the case, even if the patient’s entitlement to non-economic damages is limited due to tort reform. 

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