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Will Lawmakers Change Medical Malpractice in 2020?

Patients who have suffered from medical errors rely on malpractice verdicts to get back on their feet and to hold the actual wrongdoers accountable. Health care costs for injuries or chronic illnesses caused by medical errors can skyrocket almost overnight and injuries that result from malpractice may make it difficult or impossible for the victim to return to work. The situation can be further devastating because of the cost of additional healthcare needs necessitated by the malpractice.

Unfortunately, a recent proposal may result in yet another hurdle for victims of medical malpractice.

What is the proposal?

In 2017, the Washington Post reported that the House of Representatives passed a tort reform bill that may cap payments for noneconomic damages at $250,000. Noneconomic damages are sometimes awarded to victims for pain and suffering, serious disabilities, and permanent disfigurement. This bill is essentially a wrongdoers-don’t-pay bill.  It attempts to shift the burden from the wrongdoers to the injured and to the rest of the citizenry.

Will the bill pass?

The bill is controversial. At the time, about a dozen states did not have caps on these damages and many state supreme courts have held that such caps are unconstitutional. However, if this new bill takes effect, states may lose the ability to determine this on their own because it would result in a federal law — one that is applicable to all states throughout the country.

Many politicians are also concerned about the broad sweep of the limitation on damages. They state the bill may inadvertently make it difficult for victims to move forward with a claim after suffering from nursing home abuse, sexual assault from medical staff, or the side effects of using unsafe drugs.

One of the main arguments in favor of the bill is that medical malpractice lawsuits increase the cost of health care for everyone. Proponents state the bill will help “contain health care costs.” But at what price and for which companies? It will not contain healthcare costs for everyday people. It will also translate to less accountability for those in the medical profession who fail to provide the accepted quality of care within their profession.

Currently, the bill has passed the House but has not yet passed in the Senate.


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