WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent (PA-15) and Erik Paulsen (MN-3) today introduced legislation (H.R. 2205) to decrease the cost of health care and improve protections for patients through comprehensive medical liability reform.

“The 2010 health care law missed a critical opportunity to enact meaningful medical liability reforms,” said Rep. Dent. “Our medical justice system is a major cost driver for health care spending and it impacts the ability of patients to receive high quality care. We expect doctors to make decisions based solely on what is best for their patients, not on what is best to defend against frivolous lawsuits. Across the United States, the lack of comprehensive reform has affected where qualified doctors practice, what fields of medicine they pursue, and the services they provide. As Congress continues to discuss ways to reform and strengthen our health care system, advancing the common-sense policies included in H.R. 2205 will help reduce health care spending and ensure access to quality care.”

“The reality is medical liability does contribute to increased healthcare costs. Healthcare professionals practice defensive medicine for fear of frivolous lawsuits and end up ordering billions of dollars in extra tests and treatments,” said Rep. Paulsen. “The current environment not only increases the cost of care for patients, but also discourages highly skilled and dedicated physicians from providing important services. Three out of four emergency rooms have reported shortages of specialists, and many orthopedic surgeons have chosen to retire early or scale back their surgical duties, because of liability concerns. These reforms are needed to protect patients, reduce healthcare costs, and ensure that this nation continues to produce the world’s greatest healthcare professionals.”

The practice of defensive medicine – when doctors order tests and treatments in order to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits – is estimated to cost as much as $200 billion annually. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analyses indicate comprehensive medical liability reform would save the government $54 billion over the next decade and cut national health care spending by 0.5 percent per year.

H.R. 2205 will help end the costly practice of defensive medicine by encouraging states to adopt effective alternative medical liability laws that reduce the number of health care lawsuits initiated, reduce the average amount of time taken to resolve lawsuits and reduce the cost of malpractice insurance. The legislation will also enact nationwide reforms to stabilize compensation for injured patients, hold parties responsible for their degree of fault, ensure that meritorious claims are swiftly resolved, encourage compliance with accepted clinical practice guidelines, and guarantee that medical care is available to those who need it the most by providing protections to safety-net providers.