Big ‘I’ Hails House Passage of ‘Health Act’

July 29, 2005

The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) on Thursday hailed the House of Representatives passage of a medical liability reform bill as a great step forward in legal reform.

H.R. 5, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), includes a number of provisions that will reduce the excessive liability burden on physicians and, in the process, increase consumer access to quality medical care.

Leading provisions include:

* Three-year statute of limitations;
* $250,000 limit on noneconomic damages;
* Allowance for courts to restrict payment of attorney fees;
* Limitations on punitive damages to “malicious intent” or “failure to avoid unnecessary injury” and
* Limitations on liability for manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and providers of medical products that comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.

“We are very pleased this bill has passed the House of Representatives,” said Charles Symington Jr., Big “I” senior vice president of government affairs and federal relations. “It puts into place common-sense legal standards that will reduce the financial burden on physicians. This ultimately will be good for consumers, who have been hit with rapidly rising costs for quality medical care. The out-of-control medical liability system has been a major component in these rising costs.”

“With the possibility of being sued at the drop of a hat, not only have medical costs skyrocketed, but many doctors have retired or gone out of business because they can’t afford their premiums,” added Brendan Reilly, Big “I” director of federal government affairs. “This has been particularly true in specialized fields like obstetrics, to the degree that in many parts of this country, it has become excessively difficult for patients to find doctors for certain medical needs. H.R. 5 is a pro-patient bill that will reduce costs and help good doctors remain in business, and we urge the Senate to pass it as well.”

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