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Will Medical Malpractice Awards be Capped?


Posted on Jul 10, 2017

A Pennsylvania man was awarded $620,000 for the pain and suffering caused by a medical malpractice. He filed suit when a surgeon accidentally removed his healthy testicle instead of his unhealthy one. 

The current health care bill under the Trump administration would cap damages like this at $250,000. 

"Non-economic" damages are damages that have no specific monetary value. They include pain, suffering, and loss of companionship or limbs.

The H.R. 1215 bill is a part of the American Health Care Act, which was created to replace the Affordable Care Act and approved in May. Supports of the bill believe placing a cap on medical malpractice "non-economic" damages will "discourage frivolous lawsuits." They also believe enacting the cap would lower health care costs because insurance companies "no longer need to practice defensive medicine."

However, research has proven medical malpractice liability costs only account for 2-2.5 percent of health care expenses. Many states already have caps on non-economic damages. The health care bill will allow for those states to keep their caps in place. States with no caps would have to abide by the cap set by federal law.

Florida recently changed their state law taking away the non-economic damages cap. They deemed a cap as "unconstitutional" and a violation of people's rights of equal protection established by its Constitution.

Opposers say the federal government should not be able to cap non-economic damages. 

A general surgeon in Pheonix, Dr. Jeffrey Singer, told NPR, "The federal government doesn't really have a legitimate role to play here... It should be done at the state level, and we're fooling ourselves if we think that it'll be a magic bullet."

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