Posted May 15, 2017 2:19 PM

Missouri prepared to limit med-mal costs

By Katie Kull
Associated Press writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri lawmakers sent Gov. Eric Greitens a measure late last week that would limit how much money people could receive for medical costs in injury lawsuits, the latest in a series of proposals that Republican supporters hope will make the state more business-friendly.

The legislation , which the House passed 98-53, would limit people suing for medical costs to receive only the amount that they and the insurance company paid, instead of what is billed. It had passed the Senate by a 23-10 vote in February.

It’s one of several measures approved this year by the Republican-led legislature to limit lawsuits, including bills tightening guidelines for expert witness testimony and making it harder for people to prove discrimination in court cases.

The latest bill deals with how medical costs are calculated.

For example, if a woman was injured at work and underwent a medical procedure, the hospital may bill $70,000. But if the woman has insurance, she might pay $3,000 out of pocket and her insurance company might pay $47,000 under a negotiated rate with the medical provider.

Under current law, the woman could sue and recover $70,000 for the cost the hospital billed. But if the governor signs the new legislation, she could only recoup $50,000 because the insurance company negotiated a lower cost with her health-care provider.

Supporters say the change would allow people to recover the real cost of their medical expenses and prevent lawyers from asking for more money than was warranted.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry called it “common-sense legislation.”

“When someone wins a lawsuit the [judgment] should cover the actual expenses, not an inflated amount that in no way reflects the actual out of pocket damages,” chamber lobbyist and general counsel Brian Bunten said in a written statement.

Critics argued that the legislation would punish people for purchasing health insurance, noting that their medical costs likely will be lower since insurance companies can negotiate lower rates.

“Their health insurance premiums mean nothing,” said Rep. Jay Barnes, a Republican from Jefferson City. “We’re going to give the benefit of that foresight to the wrongdoer.”

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