(H.R. 3962): Major health care legislation designed to provide coverage for all Americans, to expand the coverage of those currently with insurance, and to restrain the continued growth of health costs - - on the motion to add provisions designed to limit medical liability law suits, and to create a fund to enable senior citizens to absorb any potential reductions in Medicare benefits resulting from the major health care legislation
This was a vote on a motion by Rep. Cantor (R-VA), the second ranking Republican in the House, to add new language to major health care legislation that the House was debating. The new language was designed to achieve medical liability (tort) reform. The motion also would have added language applying the cost savings Cantor claimed would result from the medical liability reform to a fund he said would be needed to compensate seniors for the amount of cuts to Medicare that would result from the legislation.
The Republican minority had argued, unsuccessfully, during the development of the health care legislation that the bill should include tort reform as a method of cost containment. Rep. Cantor began his remarks in support of his motion by claiming that “any physician in America will tell you that the simplest way to reduce health care costs is to enact real medical liability reform. The fear of being sued by opportunistic trial lawyers is pervasive in the practice of medicine. Our system wastes billions on defensive medicine that should be going to patient care. That's why real medical liability reform is needed. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that as much as $54 billion can be saved by the federal government alone. It is totally unacceptable that this money is being spent in the courtroom instead of the operating room.”
Cantor cited a statement by Howard Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic Party and a physician, that tort reform was not in the bill because the Democratic majority did not want to take on the trial lawyers. Cantor claimed the language he was proposing “adds real meaningful medical liability reform . . . .” He also claimed that “its $54 billion in savings (would be used) to create a fund that will protect seniors, especially those in rural areas, from the steep cuts to Medicare in the Democrats' reform package.”
Rep. Reichert (R-Wash) supported the Cantor motion. Reichert claimed that, under the pending health care legislation, “one out of every five seniors will lose the Medicare health plan they chose.” He said that creating the fund proposed in the Cantor motion is “the only way that seniors can choose the preventive treatment they need.”
Rep. Braley (D-Iowa) opposed the motion. He said that “during this entire health care debate, we've heard a lot from our (Republican) friends . . . about something called medical liability reform, but . . . (not) one word about patient safety. If you want to talk about real meaningful health care reform, it's important to talk about the most critical aspect of true, meaningful health care reform--standing up for patients.”
House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) said that the effect of the language Rep. Cantor was proposing would be to provide “for substantial billions of dollars back to the insurance companies. That's what their objective is.” He also questioned the claim of Rep. Cantor regarding the unfair treatment of senior citizens, saying that there had been no real study of the matter.
The motion was defeated by a vote of 187-247. One hundred and seventy-four Republicans and thirteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-four Democrats and three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the effort to add language to the major health legislation to limit medical liability law suits and to create a fund for senior citizens to absorb any potential reductions in Medicare benefits.