Committee counts liability reform as savings mechanism
The House Judiciary Committee has approved a proposal that includes earlier-passed medical liability reform legislation as a way to find savings to avoid arbitrary, across-the-board cuts to federal programs next year. Last month, the House passed a budget bill that also requested six House committees to find areas of savings in a so-called reconciliation process to replace sequestration, the automatic across-theboard budget cuts that will kick in January 2013 under the Budget Control Act of 2011 if Congress can’t agree to how to achieve $1.2 trillion in cuts or added revenue over the next decade. In a 16-14 vote, the panel approved the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare, or HEALTH, Act of 2011, which Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA.), a physician, introduced last year. In March, the House passed legislation that included Gingrey’s bill along with a provision to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board that was created in the 2010 healthcare reform law (See story, p. 17). The tort reform measure would create a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages of any malpractice suit in the country. Meanwhile, any punitive damages awarded would be as much as $250,000 or as much as two times the amount of economic damages awarded, whichever is greater.