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September 8, 2009

Hoyer and Tort Reform: Read the bill!

"Read the bill!" Those three words, hurled as an epithet by disbelieving opponents of the Democratic health care plan, became the signature line of the 2009 congressional town hall meetings.

Rep. Steny Hoyer heard it many times.

"It's a great chant," he said, with a wry smile, at his weekly Capitol news conference today.

Hoyer is quick to point out that he's "read the bill" (earlier this summer, he was forced to concede that he had not).

However, the No. 2 Democrat in the House apparently hasn't gotten to all the fine print yet.

During his town hall meeting in southern Maryland last week, Hoyer said "tort reform"---that is, limits on medical practice suits--is "not in any of the bills at this time."

Actually, it is.

First some background: Pressure to curb malpractice lawsuits is a perennial goal, mainly of Republicans and conservative independents, who claim that capping damages for pain and suffering would lower health costs by reducing the amount of "defensive medicine" that doctors practice to avoid getting sued.

But Democratic leaders in Congress have avoided doing anything in crafting health care legislation, even as deals were cut with other players, such as drug manufacturers. Trial lawyers and their allies claim that curbing malpractice suits and capping damages wouldn't save that much money in the long run.

Former Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean, a physician, said recently that the Democrats have skirted the issue because they did not want to take on the trial lawyers, one of their party's most powerful interest groups and, more to the point, a lucrative source of Democratic campaign cash.

Hoyer, over his career, has received more than $1 million from lawyers and law firms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog group; interestingly, the only industry that has given him more: health professionals.

Shortly before the House left on its just-ended six week summer break, a provision aimed at reducing the number of frivilous malpractice lawsuits was added to the main health care bill by the House Commerce committee. The panel is chaired by liberal Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a leading author of the Democratic overhaul plan, who had to cut deals with centrist Blue Dog Democrats to get his committee to approve the legislation.

The "medical liability reform" plan, which has attracted virtually no national attention, is designed to "reduce costs of defensive medicine and allow victims of malpractice to be fairly compensated." (The provision, approved on a voice vote as part of a package of amendments, also explicitly says that this must be done without limiting attorneys fees or placing caps on damage awards).

The sponsor of the provision, Rep. Bart Gordon, a Blue Dog from Tennessee, boasted to his constituents that he "was also able to get alternative medical malpractice reforms in the bill, which should help reduce the number of lawsuits that add unnecessary costs to our health care system. "

If Gordon's plan became law, the federal government could provide incentive payments to states that experiment with new ways to guarantee "prompt and fair resolution of disputes" involving medical care. It could, that is, if the provision stays in the legislation as it moves to the next stage.

While the Senate tries to find a compromise that will attract Republican votes, the House will attempt to meld the various changes made to the bill (H.R. 3200) by three different committees in July.

Each committee altered the original measure. As a result, "there is no 'The Bill,'" Hoyer explained to reporters today, only minutes after declaring that he had read "The Bill."

Got that?

Posted by Paul West at 1:25 PM | | Comments (2)


Creeping Socialism!!!

The best health care system in the world is controlled by the U.S. military, is completely socialized and overseen by the United States government.

And, to think the people of the United States cannot do as well for our general population is ludicrous.

But, ludicrous we are: Here, we send billions upon billions in war profits to the pockets of the military/industrialists. Billions more go to Israel to buy weapons from the same war profiteers while Israelis build "settlements" on disputed land certain to create more profits for the same merchants.

Oh yes, plenty of loot for war profiteers; however, no dollars for our general population when it comes to universal health care.

We could prohibit war profits and use the savings to end the needless loss of 20,000 Americans each year for lack of health care; but, Republicans won't allow that. Will you?

Hey Bozo, how you gonna pay for it?

If you wish to unbalance the “How do we pay for it?” detractors, as an option when in heavy disagreement, use the following Hosea Williams’ Civil Rights teaching:

Dr. King’s favored Field Lieutenant, our friend, Rev. Hosea Williams taught us: Early on, Dr. Abernathy, Dr. King, he and others, in the Civil Rights inner circle could see the horrific consequences the Vietnam war poured on the Poor. As their thoughts evolved, it became clear: war profits motivated the carnage. Studying the economic beneficiaries (follow the money) of war profits showed an endless flowing of Federal dollars; quietly funneled to an influential wealthy few. Here, poor folks suffer immeasurably while rich military/industrialist along with their ilk, without compunction and with complete impunity, slop up blood soaked dollars by the barrel full.

Rev. Williams would go on to teach: A Civil Rights consensus was developing whereby war profits must be prohibited in order to stop this primary war generator. Without war profit: dollars wasted on war would be utilized for health care, education and other constructive measures.

An assassin’s deadly aim ended this philosophical train of thought for many years. However, just before Rev. Williams left us to again be Dr. King’s Lieutenant, he gave us this answer for ending war for profit.

Amendment XXVIII
Sec. 1. War profit is hereby prohibited.
Sec. 2. Congress will enforce this article
with strong legislation.

Tell the detractors: “Together we can ease health costs with war profit savings.” Here, truth will stymie the doubters to the point of distraction.
Not even a conservative Republican can justify war profit over health care.

Eliminating the right of Americans to seek redress through the courts will result in vigilantism. Great idea GOP.


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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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