The Corner

Malpractice in the Health-Care Bill

Ed Meese and I have written previously in NRO about the importance of medical-malpractice reform. Well, buried in the 1,990 pages of the House health-care bill that was released on Thursday by Pelosi is a provision in Section 2531 that provides incentive payments to states that provide “an alternative medical liability law” that prevents or prompts “fair resolution” of disputes. However, no such incentive will be paid to any state that limits “attorneys’ fees or impose caps on damages.”

Not only are such limits and caps one of the most effective measures that states have implemented to discourage abusive and frivolous medical-malpractice claims, but they are particularly important in curbing the defensive medicine practiced by the overwhelming majority of doctors to avoid malpractice lawsuits. Defensive medicine adds over $200 billion a year to health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office’s conservative estimate that medical-malpractice liability reform package would reduce the federal budget deficit by $54 billion dollars specifically included such damage caps.

Naturally, the ambulance-chasing lawyers of the plaintiffs bar hate such limitations. These same lawyers have just happened to give millions of dollars to Democratic members of Congress, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The crassness of this blatant and obvious legislative payback by Pelosi and her party to help their supporters in the trial bar is really amazing. Not only does this gargantuan bill do nothing to bring down health-care costs, it is actually providing incentives to make them worse.