Congress Steve King: How he intends to implement medical malpractice tort reform
In this latest episode of Healthcare Matters, we speak with United States Rep. Steve King about the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, a medical malpractice tort reform bill the Iowa congressman sponsored and shepherded to passage in the House of Representatives. The bill would create a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, among other provisions that would preempt state laws governing medical malpractice lawsuits in the areas of statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability and attorney contingency fees.
Rep. King also discussed the likelihood his bill is passed by the Senate, how it could pass as standalone legislation should the Republican Party fail to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the influence a President Trump tweet could have on it becoming law.
Rep. Steve King represents the 4th District of Iowa and has served in Congress since 2004. You can contact him here: https://steveking.house.gov/
Mike Matray: Hello, and welcome to Healthcare Matters – the internet television program that explores the intersection of medicine and the law. I’m your host Mike Matray, editor of Medical Liability Monitor.
Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 218 to 210 in favor of House Resolution 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act, which would create a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical liability lawsuits, among other provisions that would preempt state laws governing medical liability lawsuits in the areas of statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability and attorney contingency fees.
Today’s guest on Healthcare Matters is Congressmen Steve King of Iowa, the author of the Protecting Access to Care Act, and he’s here to discuss his bill and its future.
Welcome to Healthcare Matters, Congressman King.
Congressman King: I’m happy to be here. Thanks a lot for having me on, Mike.
Mike Matray: First I’d like to congratulate you on passage of the Protecting Access to Care Act. I watched you defend the bill during a debate on C-SPAN and you’re very knowledgeable about medical liability issues for somebody without a healthcare or legal background. How did you get interested in medical liability reform?
Congressman King: Well, I’ve been a businessman for all of my adult life, 42 years in the construction business and I had to deal with the liability issues that are tied with construction.
Your professional reputation is on the line and there are people that think you pay the premium so you don’t care if there is a claim that’s paid out unjustly. And those things have always rankled me, that a claim that wasn’t a legitimate claim, that tied me up through litigation and slowed me down on things I wanted to do that were productive and profit oriented, to defend myself from unjust current charges.
Mike Matray: Medical malpractice claims frequency is at an all time low and medical malpractice insurance premiums have been decreasing for a decade. And much of this is attributed to state level tort reform success to date. Why does the United States need federal level tort reform at this moment in time?
Congressman King: Well, it’s because there are a good number of states that don’t have that reform. And Iowa has just passed some reform that is fairly close to that, which was pioneered in California 40 years ago, signed by then Governor Jerry Brown…….they liked it so well out there that they didn’t seek to or didn’t successfully at least, repeal it. And Texas followed that model and we’ve seen the premiums go down. So, to be able to provide that kind of opportunity for everybody in this country, to be relieved from that kind of liability cases, it’s a big step in the right direction. I think there’s more that we need to do, but I’d sure like it if we can get my bill passed through the Senate and the president has already said he would sign it.
Mike Matray: Last year, conservatives blocked the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act, a bill very similar to yours with a $250,000 noneconomic damage cap, in committee because they felt it violated states’ rights and the concept of federalism. Why didn’t your bill receive the same reception?
Congressman King: Well, it did help to think that it’s me that was carrying it, but the bigger part was that we went through and tweaked it as many ways as we could see, that would let the states have as much say as possible. And even the cap, if the state passes a different cap on the non-economic damages, then that is the cap for their state. So, if they wanna raise or lower the cap within the state, they can do so and that’d give us more states rights than was in the previous bill.
Mike Matray: At the time of this interview, the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act isn’t guaranteed. If that fails, do you think your medical liability reform legislation could move forward independent of the other healthcare reforms?
Congressman King: it does operate independently. Whether or not Obamacare is law, if Obamacare were completely repealed or if it’s left to stand in place, my legislation stands alone and is effective in either case
Mike Matray: Obviously, the Senate works differently than the House and your bill requires 60 votes for cloture. What do you think the chances of getting your legislation to the president’s desk are?
Congressman King: Well, you know, it’s a difficult task and it’s awfully hard to handicap that given that the Senate’s in the throes of trying to find something that they can get 50 votes for in the Senate right now. I don’t know.
If good things happen there, then I think it gives momentum for my bill and it’s more likely to get to the president’s desk, or, you know, the president might wake up at 3:00 in the morning and just send out a tweet that says, “I want King’s bill on my desk
Mike Matray: Congressman King, thank you for coming on Healthcare Matters.
Congressman King: Oh, thanks for having me on, Mike. I really appreciate it.
This exclusive interview was brought to you by Cunningham Group, the medical malpractice insurance specialists.