Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Protecting Access to Care Act (H.R. 1215).
Chairman Goodlatte: The bill before us today is modeled on California’s highly successful litigation reforms that have lowered health care costs and made health care much more accessible to the people of that state.
Because the evidence of the effects of those reforms on lowering health care costs is so overwhelming, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the same reforms were applied at the federal level, they would save over $50 billion over a ten-year period. And because the evidence that those reforms increase access to health care is so overwhelming, they are supported by a huge variety of public safety and labor unions, community clinics and health centers, and organizations dedicated to disease prevention — all of whom have seen the beneficial effects of these reforms in California. So popular are these reforms among the citizens of California that a ballot initiative to raise the damages cap, backed and funded by trial lawyers, was defeated by an over 2 to 1 margin in 2014.
This bill’s common-sense reforms include a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and limits on the contingency fees lawyers can charge. They allow courts to require periodic payments for future damages instead of lump sum awards so bankruptcies in which plaintiffs would receive only pennies on the dollar can be prevented. And they include provisions creating a “fair share” rule, by which damages are allocated fairly in direct proportion to fault.
And this bill does all this without in any way limiting compensation for 100% of plaintiffs’ economic losses, which include anything to which a receipt can be attached — including all medical costs, lost wages, future lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and any other economic out of pocket loss suffered as the result of a health care injury. Far from limiting deserved recoveries in California, these reforms have led to medical damages awards in deserving cases in the 80 and 90 million dollar range.
Unlike past iterations, this bill only applies to claims concerning the provision of goods or services for which coverage is provided in whole or in part via a Federal program, subsidy, or tax benefit, giving it a clear federal nexus. Wherever federal policy affects the distribution of health care, there is a clear federal interest in reducing the costs of such federal policies.
The legislation before us today also protects any State law that otherwise caps damages or provides greater protections that lower health care costs.
When President Ronald Reagan established a special task force to study the need for federal tort reform, that task force concluded as follows: “In sum, tort law appears to be a major cause of the insurance availability [and] affordability crisis which the federal government can and should address in a variety of sensible and appropriate ways.” Indeed, the Reagan task force specifically recommended “eliminate joint and several liability,” “provide for periodic payments of future economic damages,” “schedule [that is, limit] contingency fees” of attorneys, and “limit non-economic damages to a fair and reasonable amount.” All of these recommended reforms are part of the bill before us today.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation that would enact much-needed, common-sense, and cost-saving litigation reforms that would increase health care accessibility for all.
Click here to learn more about today’s markup.