Cross-posted from Politico:
These should be tough times for deregulators, who critics now link to a host of recent calamities: a massive oil spill, an economic collapse that has cost millions of jobs, countless food and toy recalls and repeated tragedies in mines and other workplaces.
Much of Congress’s activity over the past few years has been dedicated to cleaning up these messes — equipping agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission with the resources and laws they need to keep Americans safe.
So why, in the past week alone, have House Republicans held four hearings attacking government regulations?
This rash of hearings is not just showmanship. This session, Congress will consider the REINS Act, which would require congressional approval of any major regulations before they could take effect. In effect, the bill would take important decisions about our health, safety and economy out of the hands of experts and put them in the hands of politicians beholden to corporate lobbyists and campaign contributors.
David Arkush is director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.
The House Judiciary Committee began its consideration today of a bill that would punish medical malpractice victims and protect negligent players in the health industry. So predisposed were the proponents to this draconian bill that they rejected modest amendments aimed at leveling the playing field for patients against the health industry.
The Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011 (H.R. 5) is deeply flawed and would allow for sweeping immunity from accountability for the health industry – including doctors, nursing home operators, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals.
The bill imposes an arbitrary, inhumane $250,000 cap on non-economic damages that compensate patients for the pain and suffering that accompany any loss of normal functions, such as blindness, paralysis, loss of sexual function, disfigurement and loss of fertility. H.R. 5’s one-size-fits-all cap is most harmful to the catastrophically injured as well as patients who aren’t high earners, such as children and seniors.
If you read one thing today…
Is this what a to-do list looks like for a doctor who has been sued for medical malpractice: 1) Run for Congress, 2) Get elected, 3) Introduce bill that would sharply cut the limit on malpractice awards?
Well, that’s what seemed to happen for Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), who introduced a House bill would punish medical malpractice victims and protect negligent players in the health industry.
Gingrey was involved in a $500,000 settlement of a malpractice lawsuit for failing to failed to properly diagnose a woman’s appendicitis.
Gingrey’s proposed legislation, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011 (H.R. 5), would, among other things, limit damages for pain and suffering in malpractice cases to $250,000.
The bill is being marked up today in the House Judiciary Committee. Stay tuned for our comments later today on the markup.
In a draft resolution issued Tuesday, the incoming House Republican leadership directed committees to approve legislation to replace the health care law, including a mandate to “reform the medical liability system.”
Predictably, the new Republican majority has resorted to its oft-repeated mantra of calling for a federal law to restrict American patients’ rights as a way to cut health care spending. In doing so, the majority ignores evidence that such measures would not bring significant savings and in fact would carry substantial costs. It also ignores the real problem-a malpractice epidemic that kills and injures millions of Americans and costs our health care system billions of dollars each year.
The House Republican answer is for the government to continue shelling out billions to cover the costs of unnecessary and preventable medical errors, while the offenders are let off the hook and citizens suffer.
According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eliminating avoidable medical errors could potentially save $44 billion over 10 years. We call on the new Republican majority to try something different for a change. If you really want to cut health care spending, fix the patient safety crisis.
Christine Hines is civil justice counsel with Public Citizen.