​Members of the House of Representatives passed the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (HR 1215) today, a bill that would reform health care liability laws by establishing provisions governing health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government.

First introduced in the House by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) on Feb. 24, 2017, the legislation would impose limits on medical malpractice litigation in state and federal courts by capping awards and attorney fees, modifying the statute of limitations, and eliminating joint and several liability.

The vote was 218 - 210. The bill now heads to the Senate for review.

In its March 22 score of the bill, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said that the bill would, on balance, lower costs for health care directly by lowering premiums for medical liability insurance and indirectly by reducing the use of health care services prescribed by providers when faced with less pressure from potential malpractice suits. Those reductions in costs would, in turn, lead to lower spending in federal health programs and to lower premiums for private health insurance.

Overall, CBO estimated that enacting the legislation would reduce deficits by about $14 billion over the 2017-2022 period, and almost $50 billion over the 2017-2027 period.

Advocates of the long term and post-acute care profession applauded the passage of the bill and emphasized its role in preserving financial resources for providing care. 

“Rising liability costs to an already underfunded sector not only threaten access to care but can also cost jobs,” said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), in a statement. “This legislation helps at a time when we need it the most. We applaud the passage of this bill and look forward to working with members of the Senate.”

According to a 2016 report released by AHCA/NCAL and Aon Global Risk Consulting, the cost of liability continues to increase for the long term care profession. The national long term care loss rate continues to grow at 6 percent annually, with claim frequency driving the increase at an expected 4 percent growth rate, according to the report.