What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : H.R. 5. Health Care/Vote to Pass Bill to Cap Damage Awards for Victims and Reduce Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases. (2005 house Roll Call 449)
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H.R. 5. Health Care/Vote to Pass Bill to Cap Damage Awards for Victims and Reduce Liability in Medical Malpractice Cases.
house Roll Call 449     Jul 28, 2005
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

In this vote, the House approved H.R. 5, a bill to cap damage awards for victims and reduce liability in medical malpractice cases. Republicans argued that large awards in medical malpractice cases had led malpractice insurance companies to raise their premiums for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers so high that many of these providers were being forced to give up their practices. Calling the state of affairs at the time a "medical liability crisis," Joe Wilson (R-SC) argued that the bill "safeguards patients' rights to care through common sense reforms. First, it promotes the speedy resolution of claims and fairly allocates damages. Second, the HEALTH Act accurately compensates patient injuries and maximizes patient recovery. Finally, this legislation places reasonable limits on punitive damages and ensures the payment of medical expenses and respects States' rights." Republicans also argued that "[A] Gallup poll found that 72 percent of those surveyed favor a limit on the amount patients can be awarded for noneconomic damages." (Lamar Smith (R-TX).) Progressives countered that that poll would have turned out differently if people had been informed that the legislation would make it more difficult for them to sue drug companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). (John Conyers (D-MI).) Conyers argued: "Rather than helping doctors and victims, this measure pads the pockets of insurance companies, health maintenance organizations, and manufacturers and distributors of defective medical products and pharmaceuticals, and it does so at the expense of innocent victims, particularly women, children, the elderly and the poor." He added that a "General Accounting Office report that found there is no evidence that caps on damages have reduced losses or helped consumers. They found, instead, that the contention that premiums are rising because there is a surge in jury awards is a myth[.]" In addition, Democrats lamented the fact that this bill had come up for consideration on the House floor under a "closed rule," meaning that debate was strictly limited and no amendments were permitted. They were also upset that there had been no hearings or chance to amend the bill in committee. The House defeated Progressives when it passed this bill by a vote of 230 to 194, with 14 Democrats crossing party lines to vote "yes" With Republicans. Thus, the House passed a bill to cap damages awards for victims and limit liability in medical malpractice cases.

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