Congress should pass proposed legislation reforming the nation's medical liability system as long as it "in no way preempts the state reforms that have been won in Texas and other states," TMA President Susan Rudd Bailey, MD, said in a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
Dr. Bailey sent the letter to show TMA's support for the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011, filed by Representatives Smith, Phil Gingrey, MD (R-Ga.), and David Scott (D-Ga.). In addition to a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, the bill requires medical liability suits to be filed within three years of the injury in most cases.
"TMA has long supported the enactment of fair, federal medical liability reforms," Dr. Bailey said. She added that TMA previously supported similar legislation by Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Texas), "and will do so again because we know of the very positive effects the 2003 Texas reforms have had on access to care and the growing number of physicians who have relocated to Texas because of our fair and stable liability climate."
TMA's letter is in addition to a letter of endorsement that the American Medical Association and 100 other physicians and medical organizations sent to the bill's sponsors.
"The proven reforms contained in the HEALTH Act would help reduce costs, while ensuring that patients who have been injured due to negligence receive just compensation," that letter said. "This bill provides the right balance of reforms by promoting speedier resolutions to disputes, maintaining access to courts, maximizing patient recovery of damage awards with unlimited compensation for economic damages, while limiting noneconomic damages to a quarter million dollars. In addition, the HEALTH Act protects effective state medical liability reform laws."
Previous attempts to pass national medical liability reform failed, primarily because of opposition in the Senate. In his State of the Union speech Jan. 25, President Obama said he is "willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."
Action, Feb. 1, 2011