Health law board repeal bill raises concerns with trial lawyers

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The tort reform bill, introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), has already cleared the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees. It would cap non-economic damages at $250,000; create a safe harbor from punitive damages for products that meet Food and Drug Administration safety requirements; and put in place a three-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims.

Republicans. for their part. argue that tort reform will achieve the cost-cutting goals of the IPAB by cutting doctors' malpractice costs and reducing defensive medicine. The bill would cut federal healthcare spending by $48 billion over 10 years and reduce the deficit by $57 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, more than enough to cover the $3 billion cost of repealing the IPAB.

They argue that medical malpractice meets Democrats' request for a pay-for that didn't involve cutting provisions of the healthcare reform law. And they point out that Obama in last year's State of the Union address said he would be willing to look at Republican ideas to bring down the cost of healthcare, such as medical liability reform. 

"We hope Congressional Democrats will be open to this idea as well," said a spokeswoman for the Energy and Commerce Committee.