House Approves IPAB Repeal/Medical Liability Reform Legislation

On March 22, 2012, the House approved by a 223-181 vote H.R. 5, the “Protecting Access to Healthcare Act," which would repeal the ACA’s controversial Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), paid for with medical liability reforms.  IPAB is charged with submitting detailed proposals to Congress and the President to reduce Medicare per-capita spending if projected spending growth exceeds a specified target based initially on inflation and then growth in the economy. Under the ACA, IPAB’s proposals will go into effect automatically unless Congress enacts alternative legislation to achieve the required savings (with certain exceptions). With regard to medical liability reforms, H.R. 5 would, among other things, cap non-economic damages at $250,000; set limits on punitive damages (including a bar on punitive damages for products that comply with FDA standards in certain cases); establish time limits for the commencement of a health care lawsuit (generally three years after injury or one year after discovery of injury); and limit attorney contingency fees. As approved by the House, the legislation also would extend medical liability coverage to on-call and emergency room physicians who provide emergency medical service to patients covered by the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, and it would repeals the limited exemption to federal antitrust laws with respect to the business of health insurance. Note that the White House has expressed its opposition to the legislation.
 

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