A 'Fraud' On The Public
While supporting an alternative proposal which he says would better protect health care providers and patients alike, U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop Thursday (3/13) voted against a bill to impose a "restrictive" $250,000 cap on medical malpractice cases because "it supercedes the laws of all 50 states and will not solve the problem of high insurance costs."
The measure, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives 229-196, now goes to the Senate.
Calling the House-passed bill "a fraud that perpetuates the belief that this legislation could solve the problem of high medical costs," Georgia's Second District Congressman said he supports an alternative bill that includes insurance reform based on an evaluation of the real causes of insurance rate increases; protects patients' rights rather than just restricts them with a relatively low cap; assists communities in need due to doctor shortages from malpractice rates; attacks frivolous lawsuits; and repeals the federal anti-trust exemption for medical insurance companies.
The House leadership blocked floor consideration of this alternative measure, he pointed out.
The Congressman said the evidence shows that insurance companies have set higher rates to make up for losses incurred during the price wars of the 1990's, when competition kept premiums low, and to counter recent declines in their investment incomes.
Representative Bishop issued the following statement for the Congressional Record:
"Mr. Speaker, this bill is dangerous because it proposes a one-size-fits-all limit, regardless of the circumstances. It supercedes the laws of all 50 states and will not solve the problem of high insurance costs.
"The real culprit is the insurance industry. All insurance premiums-including medical malpractice, automobile and homeowner policies-have seen a drastic increase in the past few years. When the stock market returns and interest rates are high, malpractice premiums go down. When investment income goes down, insurance companies increase premiums and reduce coverage. This is a fabricated 'liability insurance crisis.' What we actually have is an 'insurance malpractice crisis.'
"Those who support restrictions on medical malpractice awards must explain these arbitrary limits to the parents of Jesica Santillan, the young girl who died after receiving the wrong organs from a heart and lung transplant operation at Duke University Hospital.
"Because of cases like this, Congress must expand, not limit, patients' rights.
"This bill does not address the high cost of insurance. Instead it limits meritorious cases and valid judgments. An exhaustive study of the court system by the University of Georgia concluded that 'there is no evidence of an explosion in tort filings, and there are few signs of run-away juries.' In contrast, this bill would hurt real people with real losses.
"I urge my colleagues to vote against this bill and defeat this fraud on the public."