Perhaps Groundhog Day is a good time for a post about a “tort reform” myth that just keeps repeating itself — that limiting the amount of money seriously injured patients can recover will result in lower medical bills for the rest of us.
The AP reported that President Obama “ridiculed lingering opposition” to his healthcare law in remarks before a Families USA event Friday, “and vowed to oppose efforts to repeal it, underscoring his commitment to his signature legislative achievement despite the new reality of a divided Congress.” The President said, “I am not willing to just refight the battles of the last two years. I’m not open to efforts that will take this law apart without considering the lives and the livelihoods that hang in the balance.” However, the President said he’d consider proposals addressing medical malpractice reform, although he “has never endorsed the caps on lawsuit payouts that would generate the biggest savings in the medical malpractice area, and are favored by Republicans.”
The Los Angeles Times reported the President said he was open to other malpractice reforms as a means to tame Federal spending. According to the Congressional Budgeting Office, “this kind of tort reform could save the federal government more than $50 billion over the next decade.”
Politico also noted Obama’s rigidity, noting comments “he’s not open to changing [the law] radically.” Instead he indicated flexibility in changing “provisions for small businesses, patient safety and medical malpractice suits.”
McClatchy noted Obama’s response that he was “‘open’ to ideas” regarding the GOP’s medial malpractice reforms. But “the gist of his message Friday, though, was to refute the broader Republican arguments.”
In its Healthwatch blog, The Hill reported overall, Obama “rejected the GOP’s efforts to “refight” the reform battle of the past two years,” but conceded, “Anything can be improved.”
The Christian Science Monitor drew comparisons between Obama and Rep. Michele Bachmann in calling for malpractice reform. Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, called for such reforms in her corresponding GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union Address. While the Administration has yet to specifically outline those reforms, the article noted, “what he’s meant in the past – is small federal pilot programs to see if there are ways to avoid the big malpractice lawsuits that can end up costing lots of money. What Bachmann might mean is more far-reaching – hard caps on the amount of money that malpractice litigation can bring in.”
Obama, Hill Democrats plan healthcare reform defense. The Hill reported in its Healthwatch blog, “The White House and congressional Democrats are vowing to aggressively fight back against any efforts to dismantle their signature healthcare reform law despite a State of the Union promise to work with Republicans on improvements. … Addressing the same healthcare conference where he first outlined his reform goals four years ago, Obama on Friday made it clear that Tuesday’s overture was not a capitulation. ‘I joined you (in 2007) in a promise, that we would make health reform a reality by the end of the next president’s first term,’ Obama told 1,000 activists at the 16th annual Families USA conference. ‘That was our commitment, and together that is what we did.’”
From the American Association for Justice news release.