Monday, November 16, 2009

Healthcare Bill Provision of the Day

UPDATE: on Federalism, below

On November 7th, the House passed HR 3962, the healthcare "reform" bill. At 1990 pages -- half again as big as it was last summer -- it's longer than War and Peace. So stray sections screwing the ordinary Natasha and Pierre are easy to hide.

One such is Section 2531 beginning on page 1431. It provides "incentive payments" to states that enact qualifying "alternative medical liability law[s]" that would parallel the current system. Sounds vaguely like tort reform, doesn't it?

Uh, no. Subsection (a)(4) (page 1432) reads:
The contents of an alternative liability law are in accordance with this paragraph if--

(A) the litigation alternatives contained in the law consist of certificate of merit, early offer, or both; and
(B) the law does not limit attorneys’ fees or impose caps on damages.
So future state alternative malpractice resolution efforts could take on the trial lawyers only by forgoing Federal funding.

Contrary to some conservative claims, the proposed legislation wouldn't alter existing state malpractice reform laws, such as Texas's damage caps, which have drawn doctors to that state. But, as the November 12th Wall Street Journal editorialized:
The House bill is intended to discourage other states from doing the same. . . The Pelosi bill also provides these incentives only if states adopt watered-down alternatives to existing malpractice caps. Those alternatives include certificate-of-merit rules, which in theory require lawyers to get medical proof before suing but in practice mean that lawyers recruit and finance "expert" witnesses.
Progressive lefties and plaintiffs' lawyers are an odd couple. But each is committed to preserving out-of-control medical malpractice liability. And together they own the Democrat party.

On some level, there's little new here. Malpractice limits always were a long shot in this Administration. Still, if adopted, HR 3962 bribes the states to block further tort reform. So, more broadly, the bill is another example of the European-like centralization current lefties favor (except in banking). As the WSJ concludes:
The hidden Pelosi tort bomb is one more example of the stealth radicalism that defines ObamaCare. If it passes in anything like its current form, we are going to be cleaning up the mess for decades to come.
In healthcare and the rest of our economy.


Gene Healy in the November 17th Washington Examiner:
Not yet a year into his administration, Obama's record on 10th Amendment issues is already clear: He'll let the states have their way when their policies please blue team sensibilities and he'll call in the feds when they don't. Thus, he'll grant California a waiver to allow it to raise auto emissions standards, but he'll bring the hammer down when the state tries to cut payments to unionized health care workers.

That's not how it's supposed to work.


OBloodyHell said...

> ... but in practice mean that lawyers recruit and finance "expert" witnesses....

"I either want less corruption, or more chance to participate in it."
- Ashleigh Brilliant -

I think it's clear that Democrats vote for the latter, hmmm?

Carl said...

The trial lawyers do, anyway. I can't understand why ordinary progressives so firmly back unlimited malpractice liability -- at the cost of 10 percent or so added to medical care.