The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 4600, a bipartisan
bill that contains reforms needed to address the Nation's badly broken medical
liability system. The bill would improve access to quality care, while reducing
health care costs, by ensuring a more timely, predictable and fair liability
H.R. 4600 offers individuals who have been harmed full and unlimited
compensation for all economic damages - including medical costs, lost future
wages, and the costs of replacing unpaid services such as child care. At the
same time, the bill places reasonable limits on non-economic and punitive
damages, similar to medical liability reforms in many states. These state laws
have been proven effective in improving access to quality care while reducing
health care costs.
Urgent Congressional action is needed because the medical liability crisis
threatens the ability of patients to obtain and afford quality health care
throughout the country. As a result of the crisis, in many states that have not
enacted meaningful reforms like those contained in H.R. 4600, health care
providers are facing enormous increases in their medical liability insurance
premiums or are unable to obtain coverage at all. The impact on patients cannot
be understated. In a growing number of communities, many physicians have been
forced to quit their practice, leaving patients with no access to trauma care,
childbirth care, other critical, and even basic, medical services. In
Mississippi, most cities with populations under 20,000 no longer have doctors
that deliver babies because of high jury awards in medical liability cases.
In states without meaningful reforms, Americans are paying billions more for
their health insurance to cover the costs of excessive litigation and
"defensive" medicine. Doctors often order extra and often expensive tests and
treatments for the purpose of avoiding litigation. The liability crisis has
also imposed costs - which could easily exceed $25 billion this year - on the
American taxpayer, adding to the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and frustrating
initiatives to improve access to affordable care.
For these reasons, on July 25, 2002, the President called for Congress to create
new Federal minimum standards for liability reform, based on measures that have
been proven to be effective in states like California. If adopted, these
proposals will prevent excessive awards that drive up health care costs,
encourage frivolous lawsuits, and promote time-consuming legal proceedings.
The Administration is pleased that H.R. 4600 encompasses the President's
proposals for creating a medical liability system that will compensate patients
fairly, hold doctors accountable without driving them out of medicine, and
reduce health care costs.
The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to enact
legislation that meets the President's goal of reasonable nationwide limits on