GOP campaigning to strip patients of key legal protections

by Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers
Contact

We all know how con artists work the streets. One might bump into you in a train or in a crosswalk, while the other grabs your wallet. Or one might smile and chat with a mom at a playground, while her partner nabs the purse.

Patients and consumers may want to watch carefully for the congressional version of the distraction scam, a series of stealth bills that aim to strip them of valuable legal rights and protections they’ll need if harmed by big hospitals, rich doctors, big insurance companies, or giant corporations. With so much commotion under way with the new administration, Republicans sneakily have launched a furious, multi-pronged so-called “tort reform” campaign. They’ve wanted it for a long time. They insist it is needed to curb excess and frivolous lawsuits, to save money for Uncle Sam (who often is a defendant), to make the economy work better, and to add jobs, and to make life in general more wonderful.

Their arguments are counter-factual and lacking in evidence.

Bloomberg news service has reported that the package of bills, a flurry that makes it harder for opponents to mobilize against, is “aimed at tilting the [civil justice] system more in the favor of companies,” and away from ordinary individuals who’ve been hurt.

Consider HR 1215, deceptively titled the Protecting Access to Care Act. (You need to always look for George Orwell’s hand in the titles of these bills.) The GOP-controlled House of Representatives is steamrolling this measure through, with the Judiciary Committee surprising Democrats and opponents by swiftly introducing, marking up, and advancing it for further consideration.

The bill would be a boon to doctors and hospitals at the expense of the rights of patients injured, often grievously, while seeking medical services. As Stat, the online health news service, reports about the bill:

[It] would cap damages that can be paid by doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes. (Many states already limit awards paid by individual providers.) It would cover individuals who are insured under Medicare, Medicaid, veterans or military health plans, and the Affordable Care Act, and could also impact people covered under COBRA or health savings plans. …In addition to capping non-economic damages, the new legislation would give immunity to drug companies in cases in which patients were harmed by FDA-approved prescriptions. Although the bill would not limit recovery of economic damages — such as lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs for victims of medical negligence — it would cap payments for a victim’s pain and suffering at $250,000. This would most affect people not in the workforce, such as the elderly, or children.

Stat says doctors, hospitals, insurers, Big Pharma, and other big corporate health care interests are thrilled about this bill. Doctors long have claimed, without evidence, that the threat of malpractice suits forces them to practice costly defensive medicine, and that frivolous litigation increases the cost of modern medicine.

But the Kaiser Health News service, an independent health information organization, recently posted a detailed take-down of this argument,  based neither in reality nor fact. With KHN’s permission, I cross-posted the story to this site. It reports that doctors are seeing some of the lowest levels of malpractice suits and payouts, as well as insurance costs. The system is running smoothly and creating no unusual burdens.

It also is protecting patients harmed while seeking medical services as they seek justice, and the often significant economic and other support they will need, sometimes for a lifetime. Republicans boast that they modeled the House law after a now hoary California measure, which put in a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in 1975, with no adjustment since for inflation. They don’t mention that Gov. Jerry Brown, under pressure from famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader, has admitted the measure is off track and needs fixing. Californians can’t unwind the measure because it has such formidable backers, including doctors and hospitals.

Bloomberg notes that Big Business is providing big bucks to remake the civil justice system in its interest, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers playing big roles.

The half-dozen GOP measures, Bloomberg says, “contain provisions to rewrite class-action practice, aid defendants striving to keep cases out of plaintiff-friendly state courts, and punish attorneys who file dubious claims. They also seek to put new limits on settlements entered into by the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency, and require more disclosures by asbestos victims who seek compensation from bankruptcy trusts.“ One also targets the settlement process for citizen suits.

House Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, a Virginian who has been a key ally for the asbestos industry and who chairs the Judiciary Committee, have been emboldened in pushing their retread proposals because the GOP controls all three branches of government now.

But this wrong-headed effort can be traced to the “U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a small number of the chamber’s gigantic industry members who have liability exposure for harming the public,” Joanne Doroshow, founder of the consumer rights group Center for Justice & Democracy in New York, told Bloomberg.

Pamela Gilbert, another consumer advocate, is quoted: “The American public supports the civil justice system and the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial by big margins. The proponents of the legislation take big risks if the public finds out what they are doing.”

In my practice, I see the huge harms that patients can suffer while seeking medical services, and they certainly don’t need more obstacles or constraints as they seek justice and the often major economic support they will need, sometimes for a lifetime. Voters who might be interested in exercising their democratic rights to protest with their elected officials this attack on patients and consumer rights can refer to the pack of bills, including: HR1215 (affecting patient rights) and the others HR720, HR725, HR732, HR906, HR985. More information on each can be obtained through the Center for Justice & Democracy (click here), on the House Judiciary Committee site, though please note that Republicans control material posted there.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers
Contact
more
less

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.