The Indiana House on Thursday passed legislation providing businesses, health care providers and other entities protection against lawsuits over COVID-19 exposure.
Senate Bill 1, passed earlier by the Indiana Senate, was approved in a 72-21 vote in the House. Because the bill was amended before passage in the House, it will now return to the Senate for review.
SB 1, authored by Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, Sen. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, and Sen. Liz Brown, R-Fort Wayne, would prevent health care providers from being held liable when they are not able to provide non-emergency procedures due to an excessive number of COVID-19 patients.
It also provides immunity against lawsuits for those who spread COVID-19 when face masks and protective equipment are not available or due to staffing issues in health care facilities.
Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Milford, and Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, proposed two amendments on Feb. 9 during the second reading of the bill. The amendments failed.
Rep. Pat Boy, D-Michigan City, also has expressed her concern that the bill could result in negligence in nursing homes.
House sponsor Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, said the point of the bill is to provide protection for manufacturers who struggled to get enough supplies for workers.
“The reality is that true bad actors are still going to be held accountable,” Torr said.
Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, compared SB 1 to House Bill 1002, which he said had more precise language on health care workers. He said he feels SB 1 is too broad, urging legislators to vote against it.
Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, had originally voted in favor of HB 1002 but said she regrets that decision after seeing how many nursing home deaths have happened in Indiana. She urged her fellow lawmakers to vote against the bill.
“Our job is to help protect the interest of everybody,” Austin said. “For us to ignore, even to giving a pause on some of these most egregious issues I think sends the wrong message.”
Alexa Shrake is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.