The House is expected to vote next week on HR 1215, known as the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, as it has already been passed by the House Judiciary Committee. One of the more contentious provisions would enforce a cap of $250,000 on non-economic damages in malpractice suits. It also restricts victims from pursuing a case after a certain period of time. According to Representative Steve King of Iowa, it would save the federal government $62 billion over the next 10 years. However, Representative King failed to mention that this bill could make it a lot easier for people like Dr. Milton Eichmann (a sexual molester) to get out of paying compensation to victims and in fact it could provide incentive for people like Dr. Eichmann to continue indulging in harmful behavior.
What exactly does this HR 1215 do? Well there a number of provisions, most of which favor insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and doctors. The provisions effectively remove power from the hands of state and local courts, placing it in the hands of the federal government. For instance, the bill would enforce a $250,000 cap for non-economic damages, which is unconstitutional in some states. A cap this low would make it very difficult for low-income earners (such as senior-citizens) to collect fair compensation in cases where they were permanently harmed by a doctor. Due the fact that they would have very little in lost income, people who are retired and low-income earners wouldn’t be able to show evidence of serious economic losses. Usually someone in this position would have to argue in terms of non-economic losses (e.g. physical, emotional or psychological injuries). However, under HR 1215, in such situations, the victim would have to settle for a very low sum of money. For the offending doctor or medical provider, this would be great news. In fact, there would be little financial incentive to desist in the harmful behavior that caused the lawsuit in the first place.
Other provisions are similarly problematic. One provision would make it so “Wrongdoers” could lower the amount owed to the plaintiff based on how much the plaintiff already received from the plaintiff’s insurance company. Another provision would make it possible for the injured victim to have to pay for the cost of injury if the responsible party is incapable of paying. And yet another provision removes all responsibility from hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare providers in lawsuits against drug companies for selling unsafe drugs, even if that drug was administered by the healthcare provider. This latter provision could shield both pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers because big-pharma companies would be able to argue that the fault lies with the hospital, nursing home or whoever prescribed the drug. But under HR 1215, the provider would be protected, leaving the victim with no options for compensation for his or her injuries.
Civil lawsuits can be incredibly important for victims of heinous behavior in medical facilities. Take, for instance, the case of Earl Bradley, a pediatrician in Pennsylvania and Delaware, who for more than 15 years drugged over a thousand children using lollipops, in order to perform sexual acts on them. Some of the victims were only several months old.
Take Dr. Ashok Alur, Dr. Milton Eichmann, or Dr. Jacob Ward, all of whom sexually molested their patients, but were permitted to continue to practice medicine. This sort of behavior could only be facilitated by the passing of HR 1215. According to a study, there is plenty of “evidence that patient safety generally falls” after the introduction of caps. Once again, to protect the interests of doctors, insurance companies and large corporations, the Republican majority in Congress seems intent on passing a bill that will hurt everyday people in America, including innocent children.