GOP introduces medical liability bill to complement healthcare efforts

Key House Republicans last night introduced the HEALTH Act, which aims to lower the cost of healthcare through medical liability reform. The bill is designated as H.R. 5, which indicates it is a high priority for House Republicans.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas); and Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.).

In a statement Monday, the three members said medical malpractice reforms have proven effective in reducing healthcare costs, and noted that President Obama has said he wants to find ways to help minimize defensive medical practices, such as over-treatment designed more to avoid possible legal action.

Among other things, the bill would limit the number of years a plaintiff has to file a legal claim against medical practitioners and ensure that doctors are only liable for the portion of a procedure for which they are at fault. The latter provision would limit the ability of a plaintiff's lawyers to seek "deep pockets" in a legal challenge.

The bill also ensures that more monetary awards would go to patients, not patients' lawyers, puts "reasonable limits" on punitive damages and allows states to maintain their own damage award caps.