A group of over 60 consumer watchdog groups and unions sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday, urging them to oppose legislation that protects healthcare providers from lawsuits related to COVID 19, the disease the CCP virus causes.
“The undersigned organizations strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 7059, the “Coronavirus Provider Protection Act,”’ the letter stated. “We understand that the stated impetus for this legislation is to support front-line health care workers. However, this bill creates the potential for extreme harm to patients, and could have lethal consequences for many,” the letter continued.
The Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, which was introduced in late May, aims to protect health care providers who act in good faith and abide by government guidelines from lawsuits while caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The authors of the bipartisan bill say it maintains basic protections for patients hurt as a result of gross negligence or misconduct and allows them to still sue.
“The COVID-19 pandemic upended health care delivery across the country. Health care providers have gone above and beyond to meet whatever challenges they’ve faced, but now we owe it to them to ensure they are protected from frivolous litigation,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) in a statement.
Meanwhile, the watchdog groups argue that there is no need for the new legislation because there are pre-existing laws that protect providers from such lawsuits.
“Our current legal system already provides that protection, while also helping ensure that the health care system has effective incentives to place a priority on patient safety and health,” the letter stated.
The letter highlights the fact that of the 140,000 people who have died from COVID 19, only 40 lawsuits related to the virus have been filed and those are mostly against nursing homes.
The consumer advocacy groups argue that the liability protection bill is too broad and protects nursing homes, which they believe should not be protected because it leaves the families of nursing home victims without any legal recourse.
“Organizations that advocate on behalf of nursing home residents expressed strong opposition to giving immunity to nursing homes that were negligent in the care they provided to nursing home residents,” the watchdog letter states. “The nursing home industry has long and actively fought federal pandemic preparedness requirements, even lobbying against such rules before the current administration,” it continues.
The letter goes on to say that there are other areas of the bill that are too broad and offer providers protection from non-COVID 19 related liability, including that “the bill also would grant immunity to providers and entities that violate medical standards of care if they can point to staffing or resource limitations.”
Meanwhile, the American Medical Association (AMA) has endorsed the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, saying it will protect providers who risk their lives every day to care for COVID-19 patients.
“These health care professionals now face the threat of years of costly litigation due to circumstances that are beyond their control. We commend Reps. Roe and Correa for recognizing that reasonable liability protections are in the best interest of our country as we continue to combat COVID-19 and begin to recover from this pandemic,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D, president of the AMA, a national physician’s advocacy organization.
The letter opposing the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, included AFL-CIO, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, Consumer Reports, Consumer Action, National Women’s Law Center, Consumer Watchdog, and United Steelworkers.