Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics
Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics
June 29, 2017
3 min read

AMA, ACP laud passage of House bill touted to control health care costs, increase number of physicians

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AMA and ACP’s leaders are commending the members of the U.S. House Representatives for passing House Resolution 1215, also known as the Protecting Access to Care Act.

David Barbe
David O. Barbe

“For too long, our broken medical liability system has resulted in increased health care costs and slowed access to care for patients,” David O. Barbe, MD, AMA president said in a statement. “This legislation is an important step toward fixing that system... [and will allow] additional dollars [to] go to patient care, safety and quality improvements, and to health information technology systems that would help improve care and outcomes.”

ACP applauded the multi-faceted approach design of the bill.

“...The time is ripe to develop and pass common-sense reforms,” Jack Ende, MD, MACP, ACP president, said in a separate statement. “[We] believe that any solution to improve the medical liability system in the U.S. should include a multifaceted approach because no single program or law by itself is likely to achieve the goals of improving patient safety, ensuring fair compensation to patients, strengthening rather than undermining the patient-physician relationship, and reducing the economic costs associated with the current system.”

ACP added that multifaceted approaches "should allow for innovation, pilot-testing, and further research on the most effective reforms, including health courts and administrative compensation models, and communication and resolution programs." 

Congressman Steve King, R-Iowa, the bill’s sponsor, said in a press release that the legislation would include a hard cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits. The release further stated the legislation is intended “to lower skyrocketing health care costs, to reduce the practice of unnecessary defensive medicine, and to increase the supply of doctors, particularly those who practice medicine in high-risk specialties.”

Previous research has questioned the impact of medical malpractice costs on health care costs, with some studies placing the annual medical liability system costs, including defensive medicine, as low as 2.4% of total health care spending.

King said that the bill would only apply to claims concerning the provision of health care goods or services for which coverage is provided in whole or in part by a federal program, a federal subsidy or a federal tax benefit.

He cited a CMS study indicating that the growth in health care spending will be even faster between 2016 and 2025, assuming that the current legislative status quo will prevail as an additional reason for the bill to become law. That study did not identify costs associated with medical malpractice or defensive medicine as a driver for the increased spending.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated on its website that its analysis of House Resolution 1215 showed the legislation would lower costs for health care both by lowering premiums for medical liability insurance and by reducing the use of health care services prescribed by providers when faced with less pressure from potential malpractice suits. CBO also stated that these reductions in costs would have a trickle-down effect, leading to lower spending in federal health programs and to lower premiums for private health insurance.

CBO indicated if the bill became law, it would reduce deficits by approximately $14 billion over the 2017 to 2022 period and almost $50 billion over the 2017 to 2027 period, and would also reduce discretionary costs by about $1.5 billion over the 2017 to 2027 period, “assuming appropriations actions consistent with the legislation.”

The American Bar Association stated in a letter sent to House leaders back in February that it “remains committed to maintaining a fair and efficient justice system where victims of medical malpractice can obtain redress based on state laws, without arbitrary or harmful restrictions,” it opposes House Resolution 1215, citing the federal preemption of medical liability laws of the states and territories as well as the limits on contingent fees and caps and damages.

The bill now goes onto the Senate. – by Janel Miller


H.R. 1215, Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (from Congressional Budget Office website, accessed 06-29-17)

H.R. 1215 - Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (from Congress.gov, accessed 06-29-17)

Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Sep; 29(9): 1569–1577. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0807

Disclosure: Barbe is president of AMA, Ende is president of ACP. Healio Family Medicine was unable to determine neither King nor Moore’s relevant financial disclosures prior to publication.