ALEC Watch: HB151

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Dr./Rep. Terry McMillian (R-Dona Ana) has introduced HB151, a bill to limit the amount an injured person can recover in medical malpractice claims and our ALEC Watch project flagged this legislation as a top-priority of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force.

ALEC claims it’s Health and Human Services Task Force “has been a national leader in promoting free-market, pro-patient health care reforms at the state level.”  But New Mexico’s HB151, similar to ALEC’s model “Non-Economic Damages Awards Act,” limits patient (and families of patients who die from medical malpractice) access to recover compensation for medical malpractice claims to just $300,000 – a pro-bad actor over pro-patient bill, for sure.

An analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy:

This bill limits noneconomic damages, the payments injured plaintiffs receive as compensation for the diminished “quality of life” caused by the injury. It limits these damages to $250,000 or the amount awarded in economic damages (whichever is greater) in medical malpractice suits. The $250,000 limit is far too low to compensate individuals who may be severely injured (or the family members of those killed). The cap also will make it very difficult to bring a medical malpractice claim — because lawyers representing injured clients in such suits are usually paid on a contingency basis, receiving a percentage of the capped $250,000 award in successful suits would usually not cover their costs.  (Non-Economic Damage Award Act, ALEC Model Bill,

McMillian’s HB151, sets the compensation limit just above ALEC’s 2011 recommendation of $250,000 but still greatly diminishes the ability of patients to pursue, and juries to provide, full compensation for a lifetime of suffering and lost work that results from bad doctors performing bad procedures.

When presenting the bill to an interim committee over the summer, Surgeon/Rep. McMillian failed to mention that in addition to benefiting his own practice, HB151 benefits lots of ALEC corporate members. But, he didn’t have to because there were plenty of ALEC members present to cover those bases.

The bill was heard by the interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee during the summer.  ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force members Rep. Nora Espinoza and Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort are on the House committee that endorsed the proposal this summer.   They serve on the ALEC task force alongside insurance companies like AHIP and Traveler’s Insurance, as well as corporate hospitals and health care providers like Humana which serve to benefit if patients are limited in the damages they can recover from these member corporations.

Other New Mexico ALEC members including Rep. Nate Gentry, Rep. Alonzo Baldonado and Rep. Yvette Herrell, serve on New Mexico’s House Health, Government and Indian Affairs Committee which is slated to hear the bill Tuesday February 4 at 8:30 am.

You can contact the committee chair, Chairman James Roger Madalena (D-Jemez Pueblo), and ask him to stop this bill and ask it’s sponsor, Rep. Terry McMillian about it’s ALEC connections.

Rep. Terry McMillian is, himself, a surgeon who is set to benefit if HB151 passes.  Send Rep. McMillian a message and tell him to withdraw HB151.  (McMillian has not been publicly identified as a member of ALEC – ask him if he is or has been.)