80 Organizations Write to House Leaders Opposing Med Mal Nursing Home Drug Bill Posted on June 30, 2017 by Larry Bodine Paul Ryan, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives Re: Groups Urge You to Vote NO on H.R. 1215. Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi: The undersigned consumer, health, labor, legal and public interest groups strongly oppose H.R. 1215: The “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” This bill would limit the legal rights of injured patients and families of those killed by negligent health care. The bill’s sweeping scope covers not only cases involving medical malpractice, but also cases involving unsafe drugs and nursing home abuse and neglect. Even if H.R. 1215 applied only to doctors and hospitals, recent studies clearly establish that its provisions would lead to more deaths and injuries, and increased health care costs due to a “broad relaxation of care.” Add to this nursing home and pharmaceutical industry liability limitations, significantly weakening incentives for these industries to act safely, and untold numbers of additional death, injuries and costs are inevitable and unacceptable. The latest statistics show that medical errors, most of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in America. This intolerable situation is perhaps all the more shocking because we already know about how to fix much of this problem. Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries, not insulating negligent providers from accountability, harming patients and saddling taxpayers with the cost, as H.R. 1215 would do. H.R. 1215 limits medical malpractice litigation in state and federal courts by capping awards and attorney fees, modifying the statute of limitations, and eliminating joint and several liability. For example, this bill would establish a permanent across-the-board $250,000 “cap” on compensation for “non-economic damages” in medical malpractice cases. Such caps are unfair and discriminatory. For example, University of Buffalo Law Professor Lucinda Finley has written, “certain injuries that happen primarily to women are compensated predominantly or almost exclusively through noneconomic loss damages. These injuries include sexual or reproductive harm, pregnancy loss, and sexual assault injuries.” Also, “[J]uries consistently award women more in noneconomic loss damages than men … [A]ny cap on noneconomic loss damages will deprive women of a much greater proportion and amount of a jury award than men. Noneconomic loss damage caps, therefore, amount to a form of discrimination against women and contribute to unequal access to justice or fair compensation for women.” Other provisions in H.R. 1215 are just as problematic. The proposed federal statute of limitations, more restrictive than a majority of state laws, lacks complete logic from a deficit reduction angle since its only impact would be to cut off meritorious claims, forcing patients to turn to the government for care. The bill would repeal joint and several liability even though the Congressional Budget Office says this could increase, not lower, costs. H.R. 1215 would overturn traditional state common law and would be an unprecedented interference with the work of state court judges and juries in civil cases. Its one-way preemption of state law provisions that protect patients (there are some exceptions) makes clear that the intent of this legislation is not to make laws uniform in the 50 states. Rather, it is a carefully crafted bill to provide relief and protections for the insurance, medical and drug industries, at the expense of patient safety. We urge you to oppose H.R. 1215: The “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017.” Thank you. Very sincerely, NATIONAL GROUPS AFL-CIO American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) American Federation of Teachers Aging Life Care Association Alliance for Justice Alliance for Retired Americans American Association for Justice American Association of Directors of Nursing Services American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination Annie Appleseed Project Autistic Self Advocacy Network Brain Injury Association of America Center for Independence Center for Justice & Democracy Center for Medicare Advocacy Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Communication Workers of America Consumer Action Consumer Federation of America Consumer Watchdog Daily Kos Families for Better Care Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings Justice in Aging Leahslegacy.org Long Term Care Community Coalition Mothers Against Medical Error NALLTCO, National Association of Local Long Term Care Ombudsman National Association of Consumer Advocates National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care National Center for Health Research (NCHR) National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care National Consumers League National Disability Rights Network National Education Association National Gerontological Nursing Association National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association National Women’s Health Network Nursing Home Victim Coalition, Inc. Our Mother’s Voice Patient Safety America Public Citizen Public Justice Public Justice Center Public Law Center Quinolone Vigilance Foundation The Empowered Patient Coalition The Impact Fund United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America International Union United Spinal Association Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) STATE GROUPS Arkansas State Independent Living Council California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform Center for Advocacy for the Rights & Interests of the Elderly (PA) Chatham Advisory Committee for Long Term Care Adult Care Homes and Family Care Homes (NC) Citizen Action/Illinois Connecticut Center for Patient Safety Disability Rights Center of Kansas Elder Justice Committee of Metro Justice of Rochester (NY) Friends of Residents in Long Term Care (NC) Greater Boston Legal Services, on behalf of our clients (MA) Idaho Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health InterHab, Inc. (KS) Iowa Statewide Independence Living Council (SILC) Kansas ADAPT Kansas Advocates for Better Care LTC Ombudsman Services of San Luis Obispo County (CA) Massachusetts Advocates for Nursing Home Reform Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program Montana Independent Living Project, Inc. NYPIRG PULSE of Colorado Residential Facilities Advisory Committee, State of Oregon Rhode Island Long Term Care Ombudsman Office Texas Watch Voices for Quality Care (LTC) (MD & DC) Washington Advocates for Patient Safety Washington Civil & Disability Advocate WISE & Health Aging (CA)  See, Bernard S. Black, David A. Hyman and Myungho Paik, “Damage Caps and Defensive Medicine, Revisited,” J. Health Econ. (January 2017); Bernard S. Black and Zenon Zabinski, “The Deterrent Effect of Tort Law: Evidence from Medical Malpractice Reform,” Northwestern University Law & Economics Research Paper No. 13-09 (July 2014).  Lucinda M. Finley, “The Hidden Victims Of Tort Reform: Women, Children, And The Elderly,” Emory Law Journal, 53 Emory L.J. 1263, Summer, 2004.