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FEDERAL | Federal Medical Liability Reform Gains Momentum in Congress

Congress is seriously considering legislative options to address medical liability, including the Accessible Care by Curbing Excessive Lawsuits (ACCESS) Act and the Protecting Access to Care Act (PACA). ASPS has advocated in support of both measures and participated in coalition efforts with the Alliance of Specialty Medicine (Alliance) and the Health Coalition on Liability and Access (HCLA).

If enacted, PACA would adopt reforms that have been enacted in the states and yielded positive results, include a three-year statute of limitations from the date of injury or one year following the date of discovery. The legislation also caps non-economic damages at $250,000 and limits attorney contingency fees. Providers would be exempt from product liability suits involving FDA-approved products under the bill. All current state law would prevail in states where more stringent statutes are in place. In late February, the House Judiciary Committee narrowly passed PACA by a vote of 18 to 17. While House leadership expressed interest in bringing this bill to the floor, no vote has been scheduled. The ACCESS Act, a similar but more comprehensive measure, is currently awaiting consideration in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

ASPS is also working with the Alliance and HCLA to advance the Good Samaritan Health Professional Act. This legislation, if enacted, will help ensure that medical professionals are available to provide necessary care in the wake of a catastrophic events by offering protections from certain types of civil liability suits. Federal law does not currently protect providers who volunteer to render aid in disasters nor for providers who cross state lines. This House Committee on Energy & Commerce's Subcommittee on Health heard testimony on this Act from medical professionals on May 17th. The bill still awaits further consideration by the entire committee.

The benefits of federal medical liability reform will be broad and will include significant budgetary savings, as demonstrated by the Congressional Budget Office's estimate that it will reduce the deficit by nearly $50 billion. Medical liability reform will remain a top priority for the Society and will be discussed in over 130 congressional offices during the upcoming Advocacy Summit in June.

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