When The Doctor Gets Sued

The Protecting Access to Care Act, which is under consideration in Congress, establishes provisions governing health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government.  However, despite it’s name, it’s making it harder for victims to receive compensation for negligent care. Titled in a way that one could assume is in the best interest of patients, the act actually keeps insurers from having to compensate heavily in any lawsuit.

The Protecting Access to Care Act is supposed to improve patient’s access to health care and ensure better care due to reduced injuries. Instead, it caps “non-economic damages” at $250,000.  This would include mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, and loss of consortium.

Act Makes Doctor Negligence Less Costly

The Protecting Access to Care Act proposes to make the process of resolving health care liability claims less costly and more efficient, stating that people with personal injury claims will receive adequate and fair compensation.

But, the adequate and fair compensation is already being decided upon (and limited) to the maximum amount of $250,000, without consideration for the individual elements of a case. Adequate and fair compensation in the act seems to be coming from a position of what is best for insurance companies and the medical establishment, not victims.

Solving the Issue

Considering that negligent medical care is the third leading cause of death in the United States, it is concerning that the Protecting Access to Care Act aims to push quality care through a liability cap.

I think many people agree that there are far too many doctors getting sued—approximately 60% according to a 2015 Medscape report.   Plus, a recent study showed that out of more than 7,000 surgeons, 1 in 4 were in the middle of medical malpractice litigation. Dr. Charles M. Balch, the lead author of the research study and a professor of surgery at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says that malpractice is at the top of a list of stressors physicians experience.

The goal should be to balance health care costs, the inherent risks involved with medicine, and the need to provide responsible treatment, while deterring hospitals from cutting corners for the sake of profit. All of these elements ought to be considered when devising legislation that intends to protect patients and doctors.