The Hill’s “Healthwatch” reports that the House will vote as early as next week on a measure that would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) established under the federal health reform law. Additionally, House Republicans have attached the HR 5 bill [Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act], a bill mandating federal limits on awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, which would set a $250,000 cap on punitive damages in malpractice suits; inadequate compensation for someone seriously injured due to the negligence of a doctor or hospital.
According to Republicans, the bill would reduce health spending by $50 billion over 10 years. That is nonsense; malpractice awards represent a miniscule portion of the cost of healthcare. Study after study has proved this to be true. What HR 5 would do, however is onerous and a slap in the face to every seriously injured or disabled malpractice victim. The bill would strip away the legal rights of injured patients, limit accountability to the healthcare industry, remove any incentives to improve patient safety, and leave people at risk for more injures from negligent care. HR 5 may be a great deal for a negligent healthcare professional, but what does it do to innocent victims? HR 5 would regulate nearly every medical malpractice lawsuit and seriously limit the compensation a victim can receive for damages incurred. Consequence breeds safety; limit consequences for negligent behavior and you endanger the public.
Damage caps are unconstitutional (in violation of the 7th Amendment right to civil jury trials) and unjust. They deny victims of fair compensation; what is the quality of your life or the life of a loved one? More than a quarter million dollars? And, with artificial caps, every life is treated the same; there is no evaluation of age, previous physical impairment, life expectancy, dependents, professional or employment status or any other differentiating factor. Damage caps serve only to permit wrongdoers to escape accountability and lower the incentive to provide quality care.
It is a horrible fate to be a victim of negligence, especially in the operating room, by someone in whose hands you placed your life or the life of a loved one. Damage caps cause victims to be victimized twice. Tort reform, in general, restricts a victim's access to justice for the negligence of others and trivializes their lives and health to the benefit of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies.
Tort reform, damage caps, medical liability reform, whatever you want to call it, restricts an injured or disabled person's access to justice. Attempts to cap serious injury lawsuits are an injustice to all citizens; they bail out professionals and insurance companies and leave the taxpayers to foot the bill for their negligent or wrongful conduct. Tort reform increases taxes, and increases government intervention. Federal laws that restrict the filing of and/or recovery in medical liability lawsuits decreases the burdens of the perpetrators and their insurance companies and shifts those burdens onto victims and taxpayers. And, the threat of large damages awards is a strong deterrent against wrongdoers; simply stated, this continued threat keeps all of us safer. Without lawsuits to weed out bad doctors and punish outrageous conduct, for example, these hacks will continue to practice, creating more and more malpractice victims. Lawsuits send a strong message that it is financially unwise to cut corners and/or ignore safety concerns.
For years, the US Chamber of Commerce, insurance companies and other huge corporate interests have spent millions of dollars on their greedy campaign to limit victims’ rights to seek justice through the court system. They spend millions to prevent individual citizens from holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions, yet, they utilize the court system and political campaign contributions to advance their own selfish agendas. This must stop! Why not spend the money on safety rather than liability avoidance?
My fellow citizens: You can help stop the madness; invoke your Constitutional rights by contacting all lawmakers. Tell them that HR 5 is bad for America; tell them you will not vote for anyone who supports this dangerous bill. Support and vote for pro-justice candidates. After all, you or someone you love is only one tragic accident or incident away from being affected by these terrible justice-restricting laws. Let your voice be heard.
Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.