Historic House Vote Protects Right of States to Set Medical Liability Laws, Says TAPA

May 26, 2016

March 26, 2015

Contact: Jon Opelt
Executive Director, Texas Alliance For Patient Access
512-703-2156 or opelt@tapa.info

Austin, TX — Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed historic medical liability language in a bill that replaces the often-criticized Medicare physician payment formula known as the sustainable growth rate.

The measure passed overwhelmingly with strong bi-partisan support.

Language in the sustainable growth rate replacement bill ensures that federal quality and payment provisions may not be used in court to sue or to advance or defend a medical malpractice lawsuit.

 “The passage of today’s legislation will permanently fix the flawed sustainable growth formula and relieve doctors of the fear of undue legal issues,” said Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar.

Rep. Cuellar had introduced similar stand-alone legislation.

 “It is my hope that the Senate swiftly votes and passes this bill,” he said.“This is the first step toward real, meaningful, entitlement reform, said Texas Congressman Michael Burgess, chief author of the bill.

“I have worked my entire congressional career to address this problem and, after years of uneven progress, we have finally taken this opportunity to do what is right for seniors, providers and the American taxpayer.

“Furthermore, the bill includes important standard of care provisions that protect state liability law and ensures that federal health care standards cannot be used to establish legal action against health care providers.”

“The Affordable Care Act does not specifically mention a new basis for liability, nor does it preclude it,” said Robert Donohoe, president and CEO of the physician-governed Texas Medical Liability Trust. The law is silent, and its silence is subject to judicial interpretation, which lawmakers were trying to avoid. 

“We know from years of experience that when the law does not address something head on, all kinds of interpretations are possible,” he said.

“This much is clear: Never before has Congress passed a bill reining in federal intrusion of existing state medical liability laws, said Dr. Howard Marcus, chairman of the Texas Alliance For Patient Access, an organization that advocated the bill’s passage.

“Today we have provided the Senate and White House with the best opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of the American health-care system which focuses on creating stability for those most in need,” said Texas Congressman Kevin Brady, the chairman of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee.

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