An ACEP-supported amendment that extends federal tort protections to emergency physicians was included in a comprehensive medical liability reform bill approved March 22 by the U.S. House of Representatives.
Explore This IssueACEP News: Vol 31 – No 04 – April 2012
Representatives Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) offered the amendment to H.R. 5 that provides limited liability protections to emergency and on-call physicians who perform services mandated by the federal EMTALA law – ACEP’s top legislative priority in the 112th Congress.
“Thanks to the leadership of Reps. Charlie Dent and Pete Sessions, the House has passed specific liability protections for emergency physicians,” said ACEP president Dr. David Seaberg. “This is a critical step forward, and emergency physicians now are urging the Senate to pass the legislation as well to make the reforms a reality.
“The legislation not only will provide liability protections for emergency physicians, but also for on-call specialists, which will help make sure they are available to emergency patients in their hour of need,” Dr. Seaberg added.
H.R. 5, the Protecting Access to Health (PATH) Care Act, passed by a vote of 223 to 181, and combined comprehensive medical liability reforms with repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The medical liability provisions included in the base bill set a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, limit attorney fees, and establish other methods to rein in malpractice lawsuits, among other things.
Overall, the bill would reduce health spending by $45 billion over 10 years.
“I was especially pleased that during consideration of H.R. 5, the House passed my amendment to address the growing shortage of physicians and specialists willing to work in emergency rooms by extending liability coverage to trauma professionals,” Rep. Dent said in a statement.
“These professionals are required to make quick and sometimes risky decisions based on minimal information, exposing them to an increased like
lihood of litigation. The enhanced liability coverage provided by my amendment to on-call and emergency physicians will ensure [that] critical, timely, and life-saving emergency and trauma care is available,” he added.
Also included in H.R. 5 was an amendment offered by Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) that grants liability protections to health care workers who volunteer at federally declared disaster sites.
Enacting comprehensive medical liability reforms and IPAB repeal have both been important legislative goals for ACEP during this congressional session.
“Leaving Medicare payment decisions in the hands of an unelected, unaccountable body with minimal congressional oversight would harm quality health care for our nation’s senior citizens and the disabled,” said Dr. Seaberg. “Medicare spending cut recommendations also would be made without any input from practicing physicians.”