HMO REFORM: Malpractice Caps Left Out Of GOP Bill
A House Republican health care task force is unlikely to include in its managed care regulation package a provision that would cap medical malpractice awards, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. The American Medical Association backed the task force's decision to exclude the malpractice cap, though the industry group "previously touted malpractice reform as a top legislative priority." A spokesperson for the AMA said, "We want the patient protections and we'll fight another day on malpractice reform." He added, "There's no question in our minds that (malpractice damage caps) would make enactment of patient protections in this Congress impossible," though he denied that AMA officials specifically had recommended that the task force strike the malpractice provisions (Rovner, 5/14). Modern Healthcare reports that critics of the GOP bill are charging that "House Republican leaders ... are loading it up with controversial items they hope will act as 'poison pills' to doom the bill." Among the controversial provisions "that may be attached are ... small-employer health care purchasing pools known as Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements."
A Balancing Act
Modern Healthcare reports that the malpractice cap and MEWA language would be unlikely to make it through the Senate and the White House, leading Rep. Greg Ganske (R-IA) to call their addition an "attempt to kill the legislation." Other critics say the controversial items are election-year attempts to satiate GOP members who "want a patient-friendly bill to vote on before" ballots are cast this fall. But the legislation's supporters said the malpractice caps and MEWA provisions were "an innocent attempt to distinguish the bill" from Democratic managed-care regulation bills (Weissenstein, 5/11). "We're trying to find a balance between giving people fair and honest access to health care and creating a health care system that's affordable," said Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who is heading up the GOP task force. "It's a tightrope." The Republicans' health care package is expected to be unveiled next week (CongressDaily/A.M., 5/14).