THE DAILY WHIP: WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2017

House Meets At:First Vote Predicted:Last Vote Predicted:

10:00 a.m.: Morning Hour
12:00 p.m.: Legislative Business

Fifteen “One Minutes”
1:30 – 2:30 p.m.4:00 – 5:00 p.m. 

H.Res. 414 – Rule providing for consideration of H.R. 3003 – No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (Rep. Goodlatte – Judiciary) (One hour of debate).  The Rules Committee has recommended a closed Rule that provides for one hour of general debate equally divided between the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary. The Rule allows one motion to recommit and waives all points of order against the legislation. Members are urged to VOTE NO.

Complete Consideration of H.R. 1215 – Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (Rep. King (IA) – Judiciary) (One hour of debate).  H.R. 1215 would limit the legal rights of injured patients and families of those killed or injured as a result of negligent health care.  The bill would limit lawsuits involving medical malpractice, unsafe drugs, and nursing home abuse and neglect. 

H.R. 1215 proposes to make dangerous and potentially unconstitutional changes to our nation’s federal system, intruding on state sovereignty through the preemption of several areas of tort law that have traditionally been reserved to the states.  Respecting state sovereignty over medical malpractice makes sense because health care providers are licensed by the states, are expected to adhere to state standards, and are monitored by state authorities. 

H.R. 1215 would also make it more difficult for plaintiffs to seek fair redress for medical injuries that have been proven in court.  For example, the bill eliminates joint and several liability in health care lawsuits for both economic and non-economic damages claims.  By eliminating joint and several liability, a victim could be deprived of full compensation for damages and injuries.  One of the arguments proponents use for the passage of H.R. 1215 is that it would save money and cut health care costs, but besides the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found the savings to be minimal, the elimination of joint liability for economic loss would hurt taxpayers as injured patients would turn to programs like Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare due to uncompensated financial loss. 

Additionally, the legislation would cap non-economic damages (damages for pain and suffering) at $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action has been brought. For example, in a medical injury proven to have been caused by the combination of a careless attending physician using poorly maintained medical equipment to administer a faulty drug, the total non-economic damages that could be awarded to a plaintiff would be $250,000, notwithstanding the separate culpability of the medical practice, the hospital, and the manufacturer of the drug. 

The legislation would also impose restrictions on plaintiff’s attorney fees.  This provision would likely discourage patients or families of limited financial means – frequently women, children, the elderly, and the disabled – from pursuing medical malpractice claims.

Medical errors, many of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Rather than shield negligent or careless health care providers from accountability and expose patients to avoidable harm, as H.R. 1215 would do, Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries.

Medical errors claim the lives of as many as 440,000 Americans per year.  The thousands of lives lost every year is in addition to victims who suffer life-altering, debilitating injuries who deserve to be compensated for their physical, emotional, and economic damage.  H.R. 1215 makes is nearly impossible for victims to be fully compensated for malpractice committed by doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.  Members are urged to VOTE NO.

The Rule, which was adopted yesterday, makes in order 5 amendments, debatable for 10 minutes, equally divided between the offeror and an opponent.  The amendments are:

Sessions Amendment. Begins the tolling of the statute of limitations on the date of the alleged breach or tort, rather than the date of the injury, which is not always a date certain. The statute of limits will be three years after the alleged breach or one year after the claimant discovers the breach, whichever occurs first.
Burgess Amendment.
Clarifies that health care services as defined in the underlying bill include safety, professional, and administrative services directly related to health care.
Roe Amendment. Limits who qualifies as an expert witness, in medical malpractice negligence cases, based on professional qualifications as well as geographic relation to where the case in chief is being litigated.
Hudson Amendment. Allows a physician to apologize to a patient for an unintended outcome without having the apology count against them in the court of law. Defers to the state law where "sorry provisions" are already in statute. Requires a plaintiff to provide a notice of intent to the physician ninety days before the lawsuit is filed. Defers to state laws that directly address Notices of Intent. Requires a plaintiff to have a physician in the same specialty as the defendant physician to sign an affidavit certifying the merits of the case before the lawsuit could be brought to court. Defers to state laws that directly address Affidavits of Merit. Requires that for any "expert witness" called to testify during trial, the witness would need to meet the same licensing requirements as the defendant physician. Defers to state laws that directly address Expert Witness Qualifications.
Barr Amendment. Gives affirmative defense to defendants in health care liability cases if they can show they complied with clinical practice guidelines.

Bill Text for H.R. 1215:
PDF Version

Background for H.R. 1215:
House Report (HTML Version)
House Report (PDF Version)

Postponed Suspension (1 bill)

  1. H.R. 1500 – Robert Emmet Park Act of 2017 (Rep. Crowley – Natural Resources)

TOMORROW’S OUTLOOK
The GOP Leadership has announced the following schedule for Thursday, June 29: The House will meet at 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.  The House is expected to complete consideration H.R. 3003 – No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (Rep. Goodlatte – Judiciary).  The House is also expected to consider H.R. 3004 – Kate’s Law (Rep. Goodlatte – Judiciary) (Subject to a Rule).

**Members are advised that votes are no longer expected in the House on Friday, June 30.  Last votes of the week should occur tomorrow, Thursday, June 29. 

 
The Daily Quote

“It’s almost like we’re serving in the minority right now. We just simply don’t know how to govern… How we’ve been given this opportunity to govern and we are finding every reason in the world not to is absolutely incredible to me.”

    -    Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Wall Street Journal, 6/27/2017