President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Congressman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) in his administration. What is Dr. Price’s position on medical malpractice reform and the rights of medical malpractice victims to seek and collect fair and adequate compensation from medical providers who negligently harm them? Perhaps Dr. Price’s background and the federal legislation that he has proposed in the past shed light on his views and efforts to place the financial interests of doctors above the rights of medical malpractice victims to be fairly compensated for their losses.
Congressman Tom Price is an orthopaedic surgeon who has practiced medicine in the metro Atlanta area for more than 20 years. He helped found one of the largest private orthopaedic practices in the country. Congressman Price is chairman of the Committee on the Budget in the House of Representatives. He also serves on the House Ways and Means Committee – including the Subcommittee on Health. Source
On June 24, 2011, Congressman Price introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives entitled “Health Care OverUse Reform Today Act (HealthCOURT Act) of 2011” that would have mandated that the Secretary of HHS “provide for the selection and issuance of best practice guidelines for treatment of medical conditions” and that once such guidelines were issued, “In any health care lawsuit, a court may not award noneconomic damages with respect to treatment that is consistent with a guideline issued.” Furthermore, the guidelines “may not be introduced as evidence of negligence or deviation in the standard of care in any health care lawsuit unless they have previously been introduced by the defendant” and “[t]here shall be no presumption of negligence if a health care provider provides treatment in a manner inconsistent with such guidelines.”
The bill as introduced by Congressman Price also provided for grants to states to establish administrative health care tribunals, which would place unnecessary hurdles blocking medical malpractice victims from having their medical malpractice claims timely considered by juries in their states. Congressman Price’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where it was not voted upon. Source
On July 30, 2009, Congressman Price introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives entitled “Empowering Patients First Act” that contained Title V (“Medical Liability and Uncompensated Care Reforms”) that provided, in part: “In any health care lawsuit, the amount of noneconomic damages, if available, may be as much as $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of separate claims or actions brought with respect to the same injury” and limited attorney fees in medical malpractice cases to a sliding scale: 40% of the first $50,000 recovery; one-third of the next $50,000 recovery; 25% of the next $500,000 recovery; and, 15% in excess of $600,000 recovery, which would severely limit the ability of medical malpractice victims to find attorneys to represent them in medical malpractice cases (if medical malpractice lawyers cannot afford to undertake the financial risk of representing medical malpractice victims, medical malpractice victims cannot obtain just compensation for the harms they suffer due to medical negligence). Source
In discussing his bill, Congressman Price stated that it “would solve the lawsuit abuse issue.” Source The bill was not voted out of committee.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that Congressman Price’s background as a practicing physician and his history of proposing medical malpractice tort reforms that harm medical malpractice victims and benefit negligent doctors is a real and present danger if and when he becomes Secretary of HHS. As Secretary of HHS, Congressman Price will have a bully pulpit from which he can mislead Americans in his fight to protect negligent doctors at the expense of unsuspecting victims of medical negligence.
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