Patient Safety News: Elderly & low-income Americans would be at risk under H.R. 1215

According to a recent article published in the New York Times, serious concerns are being raised about H.R. 1215, one of several bills introduced by House Republicans in their effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

If the bill passes, it would make it more difficult for people in Maine and throughout the nation, especially low-income and elderly citizens, to win lawsuits for even the most devastating injuries resulting from medical malpractice, faulty medical devices, or defective drugs.

According to the article, “The bill would impose new limits on lawsuits involving care covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance subsidized by the Affordable Care Act. The limits would apply to some product liability claims, as well as to medical malpractice lawsuits involving doctors, hospitals and nursing homes.”

H.R. 1215 would put a $250,000 limit on “non-economic damages,” such as pain and suffering, loss of a body part like an arm or a leg, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of a child or spouse.

Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, told the New York Times that the passing of H.R. 1215 would limit “frivolous lawsuits that unnecessarily drive up health care costs,” but there is no evidence to support these claims.

When California introduced their own $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in 1975, insurance premiums rose 450 percent over the next 13 years. And, as our blog article points out, other states saw insurance rate hikes after similar legislation was passed.

Attorneys at Berman & Simmons believe this bill blatantly obstructs the constitutional right to have a trial by jury. The ability to bring legal claims to court for those who have been harmed puts a focus on providers and holds them accountable. H.R. 1215 will give these medical providers a chance to ignore patient safety and will allow them to operate under more lenient and forgiving conditions with a lot less at stake.

There is still time to fight this bill, and to make sure victims of medical malpractice keep their rights to a fair trial and full compensation. The lawyers of Berman & Simmons urge Maine residents to say no to H.R. 1215. Contact Reps. Bruce Poliquin (https://poliquin.house.gov/contact) and Chellie Pingree (https://pingree.house.gov/contact-chellie), and Sens. Susan Collins (www.collins.senate.gov/contact) and Angus King (www.king.senate.gov/contact) today. Let Congress know that Maine trials should be decided by Maine juries, not D.C. politicians and lobbyists.