Wednesday, June 28, 2017

CONYERS: Floor Statement on H.R. 1215, the so-called “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017”

H.R. 1215, the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” will do little to protect Americans’ access to safe and affordable health care.  Instead, it will deny victims of medical malpractice and defective medical products the opportunity to be fully compensated for their injuries and to hold wrongdoers accountable.

This legislation imposes various restrictions on lawsuits against health care providers concerning their provision of health care goods or services that would apply regardless of the merits of a case, the misconduct at issue, or the severity of the victim’s injury. 

There are so many problems with this bill that I would need 5 hours to discuss them all, but here are just a few.

To begin with, H.R. 1215 deeply intrudes on state sovereignty.

In particular, H.R. 1215 preempts state law governing joint and several liability, the availability of damages, the ability to introduce evidence of collateral source benefits, attorneys’ fees, and periodic payments of future damages. 

Members should not be fooled by assertions that the bill preserves state law. In fact, the rule of construction contained in the bill expressly states that it preempts state law except in very limited circumstances where state law is more favorable to defendants. 

And a number of so-called “state flexibility” provisions simply reinforce one-way preemption where the bill mostly supersedes state laws that are more favorable to victims, while leaving intact State laws that are more favorable to defendants.

In truth, H.R. 1215 does nothing to address the fundamental concerns about states’ rights previously raised by Members on both sides of the aisle.  In fact, just yesterday the House Liberty Caucus, a group of conservative libertarian members, registered their strong opposition to this bill stating that it “unconstitutionally voids state laws governing health care lawsuits.”

Further yet, this bill would cause real harm by severely limiting the ability of victims to be made whole.

For instance, the bill’s $250,000 aggregate limit for noneconomic damages -- an amount established more than 40 years ago pursuant to a California statute -- would have a particularly adverse impact on women, children, the poor, and other vulnerable members of society.

These groups are more likely to receive noneconomic damages in health care cases because they are less able to establish lost wages and other economic losses. 

Women, for example, are often paid at a lower rate than men, even for the same job, and are also more likely to suffer noneconomic loss, such as disfigurement or loss of fertility.

Imposing a severe limit on noneconomic damages, therefore, hurts them disproportionately.

Finally, this bill is particularly harmful for veterans, members of the military, and their families.  Because the bill preempts state tort law in any health care related lawsuit that includes any coverage provided by a federal health program, all cases arising from substandard care received in a Veterans Administration facility or a military hospital would be subject to the bill’s restrictions.

As a diverse coalition of veterans organizations noted in their letter of opposition, H.R. 1215 would limit the ability of veterans and military families to “hold health care providers, drug manufacturers and medical products providers accountable for pain and suffering, and death that result from substandard care, preventable medical errors, and defective drugs and devices.” 

For these and many other reasons, I urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 1215 and I reserve the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

No comments:

Post a Comment