The United States Senate is currently debating Senate Bill 22, entitled the “Medical Care Access Protection Act of 2006”. The Senate is expected to vote on this medical liability bill during the week of May 8, 2006, also dubbed “Healthcare Week” by Senate leadership.

The bill would cap non-economic damages against an individual practitioner at $250,000 as well as for single institutional providers.

In cases where awards are being directed towards multiple health care institutions the award may be as much as $250,000 regardless of the number of parties against whom the action is brought or the number of separate claims or actions brought with respect to the same occurrence. The total amount recovered from all such institutions in such lawsuits shall not exceed $500,000.

S.22 would also allow unlimited economic damages to be paid to the claimant as well as capping punitive damages not to exceed two times the total amount of the economic damages awarded in a lawsuit or $250,000, whichever is greater.

The legislation also contains a section that will not allow the legislation to preempt any State law whether it is effective before, on or after the date of the enactment of this Act.

The United States Congress feels that our current civil justice system is adversely affecting patient access to health care services by affecting interstate commerce as a result of contributing to the high costs of health care and premiums for health care liability insurance purchased by health care providers and contributing to a significant effect on the amount, distribution, and use of federal funds. The Senates aim is to improve the fairness and cost-effectiveness of our current health care liability system with this legislation.

The bill currently has sixteen co-sponsors from both political parties and is sponsored by Senator John Ensign of Nevada.