03.22.12 Early this afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5, the “Preserving Access to Healthcare Act” by a vote of to 223 to 181. This legislation combines two AMA-supported bills: the “Medicare Decisions Accountability Act” (H.R. 452), and the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act” (also H.R. 5). Seven Democrats voted yes while 10 Republicans voted no and 4 Republicans voted present.
H.R. 452, originally introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, MD (R-Tenn.), would repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). This legislation was combined in the Rules Committee with the HEALTH Act, which provided savings that are more than sufficient to offset the estimated $3.1 billion cost of repealing the IPAB. The HEALTH Act, originally introduced by Rep. Phil Gingrey, MD (R-Ga.), contains a wide range of AMA-supported medical liability reforms, including a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages. The version of the HEALTH Act that was included in the combined bill did not include provisions that would permit the introduction of evidence of income from collateral sources at trial, reflecting modifications made by the House Judiciary Committee.
H.R. 5 is not likely to be considered by the Senate in its current form.
During the debate, several additional amendments of interest to physicians were also approved:
An amendment offered by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), which would restore the application of antitrust laws to the business of health insurance by amending the McCarran-Ferguson Act, was accepted by voice vote.
Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Penn.) offered an amendment that would address the crisis in access to emergency care by extending liability coverage to on-call and emergency room physicians under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which was accepted by voice vote.
An amendment offered by Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) would grant limited civil liability protection to health professionals that volunteer at federally declared disaster sites, and was accepted by a vote of 251 to 157.