This comes at a time when the last thing we need is less accountability. A study released last month found that one out of every three hospital patients encounters a medical error. Previously, the Institute of Medicine found that as many as 98,000 people die every year from preventable medical errors, the sixth leading cause of death in America and the equivalent of two 737s crashing every day for a year.
This bill would intensify the burdens on patients and their families, ultimately leaving them to find other ways to pay for medical costs caused by the health care industry’s negligent or reckless acts. In most cases, the costs would fall on the rest of us through higher taxes and higher health insurance premiums. Meanwhile, the health care industry would not be held accountable for negligent behavior, nor would it have any incentive to improve patient safety.
The civil justice system has a long track record of holding negligent health care providers accountable, providing resources for injured patients and their families, and forcing medical facilities to clean up their acts.
Instead of the federal government inserting itself into what has always been a state issue, Congress needs to focus on the more pressing concern — making hospitals and health care in this country safer.
If Congress wants to get serious about reducing medical malpractice lawsuits and lowering the cost of health care, you have to get serious about putting patients first and reducing medical errors. Using a bill like H.R. 5 to eliminate the rights of injured patients will not accomplish that.
Gibson Vance is president of the American Association for Justice.