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Capitol Health Call
October 9, 2002

Liability Cap

JAMA. 2002;288(14):1709. doi:10.1001/jama.288.14.1709

With medical malpractice insurance premiums spiraling upward, the House continued debate on a bill to limit damages awarded to plaintiffs. The Help Efficient, Low Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2002 would impose a 3-year statute of limitations on all medical malpractice suits and limit "pain and suffering" awards to $250 000. Punitive damages would be capped at $500 000 and lawyer fees would be restricted on a sliding scale.

The House has passed similar bills six times since 1995, but each year the legislation has died in the Senate. A repeat performance seems likely, said one Washington health care lobbyist. "It's not going to become law this year," he said. "But this is how it works, you have to keep building support for these things."

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