Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

Controversial H.R. 1215 Up For Vote Soon

By Jack H. FarnbauchApril 19, 2017

On March 22, 2017, the U.S. Congress put on the calendar, H.R. 1215, also known as the  Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017. This bill establishes provisions governing health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government, including through a subsidy or tax benefit.  At a minimum, that means the people covered under the Affordable Care Act, veteran and service member health plans, Medicare, and Medicaid (i.e., the elderly, poor, and disabled) are affected and ultimately punished. This bill is the brainchild of congressional Republicans who say they want government out of health care.

According to H.R. 1215, punishment would begin if you (or your child or loved one) were harmed by an unsafe hospital or nursing home, injured by an unsafe drug or medical device, or even sexually abused by a doctor. If you tried to seek compensation or accountability in court, you would be forced into an “alternative” system of justice created just for you by lobbyists and career politicians in Washington DC. This bill essentially includes taking power away from local juries to decide individual cases, and consolidating that power in the hands of DC politicians.H. R. 1215 disrespects the 7th Amendment to the Constitution and the decision of a jury composed of people in the community about what a careless doctor or hospital should pay to an individual for their damages.

Some of the bill’s highlights (or lowlights if you are a patient injured by a doctor or healthcare facility) include non-economic damages being capped at $250,000. A young man paralyzed for life would be eligible only for no more than $250,000  of damages for his pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life. The facial disfigurement for the life of a young woman would be “capped” at $250,000. Also, a federal repeal of state collateral source rules, meaning a wrongdoer can reduce their obligation to compensate a patient by the amount of disability, workers' compensation, or other insurance received, to which a patient has a right.

Also, the bill contains a federally mandated prohibition against a severely injured patient receiving a full jury award in a lump sum, leaving the patient under-compensated while the insurance company gets to sit on the money and pocket the interest. Also included is a federally-mandated ban on including a hospital, nursing home, or health care provider in a case against a drug company over an unsafe drug, even if the provider negligently prescribed or administered the drug and is jointly responsible for causing injury or death. And finally, federally-mandated statute of limitations which is more restrictive than state laws and supersede them.

This bill is very anti-victim-oriented and alarming. Any developments or votes will be updated here in the future.