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Tort “Deform” – The Fuzzy and Circular World of Congress and H.R. 5

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In the currently fuzzy world of Congressional health legislation on February 9, a particular bill, H.R. 5, the oddly entitled “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011” was scheduled for mark-up in the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill’s purported goal is to stabilize malpractice insurance rates and in so doing, reduce health care costs through, again purported, tort reform. The bill is being considered by the Judiciary Committee amid mostly Republican hopes of its being reported out of Committee and on to a vote in the House before a push onward to the U.S. Senate.

Wayne Parsons in his post on the Honolulu, Hawaii, Personal Injury Board Network (September 17, 2009), said (more than a year ago) of H.R. 5 that “Taking away the rights of patients injured by negligent doctors and hospitals will do nothing to improve health care and study after study has shown that tort reform will not lower doctors’ insurance costs.” (Admission at this point: Mr. Parsons is a trial lawyer, as am I – this writer. Please read on, however….)

Taking away the rights of patients injured by negligent doctors is only one of a whole flock of reasons to throw out H.R. 5. To quote Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, (D-39th District-California), on her Congressional website in which she rises in opposition to H.R. 5:

H.R. 5, a bill that caps a medical malpractice victim’s recovery… is a deplorable bill. It is the most simplistic and useless method for addressing very real problems with our medical community. It is a ridiculous piece of legislation that is akin to trying to put out a forest fire with a squirt gun.”

To go further, there are Congressional legislators who believe H.R. 5 smacks of backroom deals with insurance companies and seeks to do little or nothing to curb the 98,000 medical malpractice deaths per year of people exposed to un-healthy medical care! Yet, interestingly enough, H.R. 5 just picked up more than 40 new co-sponsors, all but one of whom are Republican.

What continues to amaze this writer, one who believes in states’ rights and less government, and individual freedom and rights, is that certain politicians, mostly so-called "real" Republicans who want less government and less federal oversight, are proposing and advocating just the opposite with regard to medical malpractice "reform" and H.R. 5 (and previous versions over the last decade) – they are sticking their collective noses right into the states’ business (approximately 33 states aleady have some form of tort "reform" and grant some level of immunity to physicians and big business). With all due respect, and in the undersigned’s personal opinion, these politicians take a hypocritical position, and, without shame, pander to big business and insurance companies, who already have the playing field tilted dramatically in their favor by the mere fact that they have bucket -loads of money to give to these politicians’ campaigns and for lobbying Congress. I guess the lure of self-preservation (staying elected) is mighty powerful. It seems as if less government and states’ rights are only paid lip-service, and only valid when they suit their personal avarice. The little guy is discarded and continues to lose further protections – just the opposite of what our Constitution framers had in mind I believe. (Granted, I am no Constitutional scholar).

Within the next decade or two, if these politicians have their way, the United States of America may change its name to the United Corporations of America, and the Supreme Court may change its name to the Supreme Corporations Court. This may be a little far-fetched, admittedly, but sometimes I wonder…. Checks and balances seem to have become a mystical idea of the past. Further amazing is the fact that these politicians seem to somehow convince many of their constituents that taking away their very right(s) to justice is somehow in their (constitutents’) best interest; that giving more power to those with more money is the way to go (the American Way?). And that it will protect their (contitutents’) pocket books by doing so – that is the ultimate kicker. The reasoning is maddeningly circular. Marketing at its best. And who knows more about marketing than big business, big insurance companies, and Wall Street?