Medical Malpractice Caps Head To House Floor

Medical Malpractice Caps Head To House Floor

Rep. Steve King's (R-IA) 'Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017' heads to the House floor this week as H.R. 1215. The bill aims to impose a $250,000 cap on 'non-economic' damages brought in medical malpractice suits.

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Photo credit: Piron Guillaume

Why It Matters

The cost of Medical Malpractice insurance is often cited as one of the driving costs for healthcare in the United States. The law, modeled on a California statute from 1975, seeks to lower the cost of malpractice insurance by lowering the maximum amount a policy would have to pay out, thereby preserving access to healthcare.

Critics argue that medical malpractice liability only amounts to 2.6% of the cost of healthcare spending and that even this figure is trending down, with a 61.9% decrease between 2001 and 2013. The $250,000 cap does not reflect inflation since it was established four decades ago and, as Jon Conyers (D-Michigan 13th) said, "would have a particularly adverse impact on women, children, the poor, and other vulnerable members of society"

Key Terms

"Non-Economic" – the bill does not cap damages such as direct healthcare costs, salary loss, etc but does cap how much patients can claim for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress.

"Medical Malpractice" - malpractice refers to negligence in the practice of medicine. The difference between negligence and an honest mistake is, however, decided by a court and 91% of physicians believe that the medical community practices defensive medicine in response to the threat of a lawsuit.


  • Goodlatte, Bob (R-VA)
  • Smith, Lamar (R-TX)
  • Flores, Bill (R-TX)

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