Hoyer Statement on the Medical Malpractice Bill

For Immediate Release:

July 28, 2005

Contact:Stacey Farnen Bernards
(202) 225 - 3130

WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today regarding the Republican Medical Malpractice Bill, which would do nothing to reduce physicians' insurance premiums:

“The Members on both sides of the aisle should be very clear about what this Republican bill will and will not do.  Our Republican friends have proclaimed this “Health Care Initiative Week.”  But the truth is, this legislation will do absolutely nothing to make health insurance more available or affordable.

“Forty-five million Americans – one of every six citizens in this great country – do not have health insurance.  That is a national disgrace!  And, it cries out for action!

“Yet, the Republican Majority ignores that real crisis today, and instead pretends to address the rising liability insurance premiums paid by physicians.

“Let no one be mistaken: Every Member of this House agrees that we must ensure that good doctors serving communities all across America can afford to practice medicine.  This Republican bill, however, fails to reduce physicians’ insurance premiums.

“How do I know that?  Because the insurance industry has acknowledged that it has no intention of reducing those premiums.  In January, the spokesman for the American Insurance Association told the Chicago Tribune: “We have not promised price reductions with tort reform.”

“The dirty little secret is that medical malpractice is an extremely profitable line of business for insurance companies.  In fact, a recent study by the former insurance commissioner of the State of Missouri found that premiums collected by malpractice insurers increased by 120 percent over the last five years, while claims pay-outs basically remained flat.

“Simply put, this Republican bill is a misdiagnosis of the ailment that afflicts our medical liability system – runaway insurance premiums.  Instead, Republicans point the finger of blame at trial lawyers and injured patients, when the best evidence shows that frivolous claims are rare and claims are decreasing.

“Their bill imposes an arbitrary $250,000 cap on non-economic damages – a measure that would further harm the most severely injured patients, whose damages are most likely to exceed that amount.  And equally outrageous, it provides a liability waiver to the manufacturers of medical devices and drugs, if their products are approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Neither of these measures will do anything to address the underlying issue.

“It is nothing less than shameful that the Republican leadership has refused to allow Democrats to offer our alternative, which would address frivolous lawsuits – a rare but real occurrence – and help physicians by reforming malpractice insurers’ practices.

“If Republicans were serious about addressing escalating premiums, they would allow debate on our alternative.  Today, they are simply trying to score political points.”

 

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