Speaker Paul Ryan is searching for ways to save his dying budget proposal, so he is apparently “looking to find real savings that can be achieved.” Here’s one of his big ideas: cut the liability for malpracticing doctors and hospitals, nursing homes and drug companies that harm or kill people. (Watch the House Judiciary Committee mark up this bill, H.R. 4771, today. Expect the House to vote on this charade in early April.)
Save money? We could use a laugh today. Here's actually what would happen if this travesty became law:
More Errors Will Lead to Increased Costs. Yesterday, 30 consumer, health and safety groups sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee explaining, among other things:
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 these provisions 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.
New Burdens Would be Placed on Medicaid. If someone is brain damaged, mutilated or rendered paraplegic as a result of the medical negligence but cannot obtain compensation from the culpable party through the tort system, he or she will be forced to turn elsewhere for compensation, particularly Medicaid.
Liens and Subrogations Would be Wiped Out. Whenever there is a successful medical malpractice lawsuit, Medicare and Medicaid can both claim either liens or subrogation interests in whatever the patient recovers, reimbursing the government for some of the patients’ health care expenditures. Without the lawsuit, Medicare and Medicaid will lose funds that the government would otherwise be able to recoup.
Deficit Savings? I've got nuthin.' Except, "look elsewhere, Mr. Speaker."