Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House without amendment (03/13/2003)

(This measure has not been amended since it was reported to the House on March 11, 2003. The summary of that version (Part I) is repeated here.)

Help Efficient, Accessible, Low Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2003 - (Sec. 3) Makes changes to the health care liability system, including compensation for injured patients and other issues arising out of health care lawsuits.

Requires a suit to be brought within three years of the date of injury or one year after the claimant discovers or should have discovered the injury, whichever occurs first. Specifies exceptions when a suit may be brought later than three years after the date of injury. Sets forth rules for actions by minors.

(Sec. 4) Sets forth requirements and permissible recovery amounts for compensating patient injury, including: (1) the full amount of economic loss without limitation; (2) noneconomic damages as specified; and (3) a fair share rule.

(Sec. 5) Requires the court to supervise payment-of-damage arrangements, limiting contingency fees.

(Sec. 6) Permits the introduction of evidence of collateral source benefits, except that this section shall not apply to provisions of the Social Security Act pertaining to State plans for medical assistance and Medicare as secondary payer.

(Sec. 7) Limits the availability of punitive damages, requiring clear and convincing evidence of malicious intent to injure or a deliberate failure to avoid substantially certain, unnecessary injury. Prohibits punitive damages from being awarded where no judgment for compensatory damages is rendered. Prohibits their award for products that comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, except if the manufacturer or distributor of a particular medical product or the supplier of a component or raw material of such a product causes harm by failing to comply with a specific requirement of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Declares that in cases involving alleged harm due to packaging or labeling of a drug required to have tamper resistant packaging, the manufacturer or product seller shall not be held liable for punitive damages unless the trier of fact finds evidence that the labeling or packaging is out of compliance with FDA regulations.

Allows punitive damages in cases where a person: (1) withholds from the FDA information pertaining to the alleged harm suffered; or (2) made an illegal payment to an FDA official to secure or maintain approval or clearance of a product.

(Sec. 8) Authorizes periodic payment of future damages to claimants.

(Sec. 10) Excludes suits for vaccine-related death or injury from the requirements of this Act if otherwise covered under the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

(Sec. 11) Preempts a specified section of Federal law governing health care lawsuits to the extent that such section differs from this Act in certain ways, including if it provides for a greater amount of damages or contingent fees or a longer period in which a health care lawsuit may be commenced. Preempts State law unless such law imposes greater protections for health care providers and organizations from liability, loss, or damages.

(Sec. 13) Expresses the sense of Congress that a health insurer should be liable for damages for harm caused when it makes a decision as to what care is medically necessary and appropriate.