INTRODUCTION OF THE TAXPAYER PROTECTION FROM FRIVOLOUS LITIGATION ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - September 29, 2006)
SPEECH OF HON. RON PAUL OF TEXAS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2006
* Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce the Physicians and Taxpayers' Protection from Frivolous Litigation Act. This bill provides protection from frivolous lawsuits for physicians in cases involving Medicare and Medicaid, and in cases where physicians are obligated to provide treatment under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).
* Among the legal reforms contained in this act are a loser pays rule providing for physicians to be reimbursed for costs incurred in defending against frivolous lawsuits; a tightening of statutes of limitations to ensure lawsuits are not just attempts to extort money for conditions that arose years after treatment was delivered; reforms of how putative damages are calculated in order to ensure the damages bear a relationship to the harm suffered, limitations on contingent fee contracts which encourage the filing of frivolous lawsuits, reforms to calculations of joint and several liability so a defendant is only liable for the harm he actually caused, and limitation of damages in cases where the plaintiff has already received compensation.
* Frivolous lawsuits and the accompanying increase in malpractice insurance payments have driven many physicians out of medical practice. The malpractice crisis has further increased the cost of health care by forcing physicians to practice defensive medicine. While most malpractice reform issues are properly addressed at the state level, Congress does have a duty to act to protect physicians from frivolous lawsuits stemming from cases involving federally funded programs or federal mandates. After all, these programs already impose tremendous costs on physicians. For example, Medicare imposes so many rules and regulations on health care providers that the Medicare code is actually larger than the infamous tax code!
* EMTALA imposes additional burdens on physicians. EMTALA forces physicians and hospitals to bear l00% of the costs of providing care to anyone who enters an emergency room, regardless of the person's ability to pay. According to the June 29, 2003 edition of AM News, emergency physicians lose an average of $138,000 in revenue per year because of EMTALA. EMTALA also forces physicians and hospitals to follow costly rules and regulations. A physician can be fined $50,000 for a technical EMTALA violation.
* The combined effect of excessive regulations, inadequate reimbursements, and the risk of being subjected to unreasonable malpractice awards is endangering the most vulnerable people's access to health care. I am aware of several physicians who have counseled young people not to enter the health care profession because of lawsuits, federal regulations, and low federal reimbursement rates. Other physicians are withdrawing from the Medicare and Medicaid programs and cutting their ties with emergency rooms in order to avoid the EMTALA mandates. Protecting physicians from frivolous lawsuits who are participating in federal programs or acting to fulfill federal mandates is an important step in removing federally created disincentives to providing care to elderly and low income people. I therefore call upon my colleagues to stand up for heath care providers, low income people, senior citizens, and taxpayers by cosponsoring the Physicians and Taxpayers' Protection from Frivolous Litigation Act.