On February 24, 2017, Representative Steve King, from Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, introduced H.R. 1215 to Congress. This bill, later to be known by the misleading name “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” was created as part of the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It is scheduled for House debate on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.
As per the bill’s original wording, H.R. 1215’s purpose is “to improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system.” It does nothing of the kind except to limit the rights of patients to file a lawsuit against a health care provider for medical negligence.
The passing of this bill puts the safety, protection and freedom of patients at risk. In a statement in opposition to H.R. 1215, Representative John Conyers, Jr., of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District, explained that the bill would give health care providers nearly blanket immunity, entitling them to legal protection for negligent care without a source of adequate compensation for a patient’s pain and suffering.
H.R. 1215 would also not lower health care costs. The rising costs of health care is a stated goal of the lawmakers who support the bill. However, a study conducted by Northwestern University and the University of Illinois shows that there is typically a 4% increase in Medicare spending for those states that already place limits on non-economic damages because the costs to treat patients injured through medical errors are passed paid by the health insurance industry rather than through medical malpractice liability insurance, which would be severely capped by H.R. 1215.
Additionally, the bill eviscerates state sovereignty in this area. Traditionally, non-economic damages sought by medical malpractice lawsuits are regulated by the individual states, many of which have left it to a jury to decide the appropriate amount of compensation. H.R. 1215 oversteps state medical liability laws and asserts that non-economic damages may not exceed $250,000, even in the most catastrophic of cases.
Kerner & Kerner stands firmly in opposition to H.R. 1215 and supports patients’ rights to hold their health care provider responsible for costly medical mistakes that have long term and permanent consequences. As a patient, you deserve to be protected from medical care that deviates from the standard of care existing in the community. Please write or email your Congressman immediately to stand up and voice your opposition to this dangerous piece of legislation.