House Judiciary Committee Approves Bill To Cap Noneconomic Damages in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits
The House Judiciary Committee yesterday on a 15-13 vote approved a bill (HR 5) that would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $250,000, CongressDaily reports (Rich, CongressDaily, 3/5). The legislation would not limit economic damages and would allow punitive damages of $250,000, or twice the amount of economic damages, whichever is higher (California Healthline, 3/5). Republican committee members said that they voted in favor of the bill, sponsored by Rep. James Greenwood (R-Pa.) and supported by President Bush, to help reduce malpractice insurance costs (CongressDaily, 3/5). "A national medical insurance crisis, driven by uncontrolled litigation, is devastating our nation's health care system," committee Chair James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said.
However, committee Democrats, who voted against the bill, said that caps on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits are "unfair" to patients and a "boon" to the insurance industry, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the committee, said, "Rather than helping doctors and victims, the bill before us pads the pockets of insurance companies, HMOs and the manufacturers and distributors of defective medical products and pharmaceuticals" (Carter, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/5). The committee rejected nine amendments to the legislation introduced by Democrats. One amendment would have increased the cap on noneconomic damages to $1.6 million, and a second amendment would have allowed lawmakers to adjust the $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages each year to account for cost-of-living increases. The House Energy and Commerce Committee must approve the bill before the legislation moves to the House floor for debate (CongressDaily, 3/5). The committee plans to mark up the bill today (House Energy and Commerce Committee schedule, 3/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.