Tea party snag

Med­i­cal li­a­bil­ity bill de­layed by GOP crit­i­cism

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Rich Daly

Physi­cian and hos­pi­tal groups that hoped med­i­cal prac­tice re­form would quickly ad­vance in Congress saw such leg­is­la­tion hit a tea party speed bump this week. The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee was ex­pected on Feb. 9 to ap­prove a bill that would es­tab­lish lim­its on mal­prac­tice lit­i­ga­tion, which Repub­li­cans say is a key to con­trol­ling spi­ral­ing health­care costs.

The leg­is­la­tion en­coun­tered uni­ver­sal op­po­si­tion from Democrats on the panel—as ex­pected—but it also drew sur­prise crit­i­cism from some Repub­li­can mem­bers of the Tea Party Cau­cus. Their op­po­si­tion, which was based on con­cerns the bill would vi­o­late con­sti­tu­tional lim­its on fed­eral au­thor­ity, was enough for the com­mit­tee to de­lay fi­nal con­sid­er­a­tion of the mea­sure un­til this week.

Repub­li­can Reps. Ted Poe and Louie Gohmert, both of Texas, said they would con­sider sup­port­ing a Demo­cratic amend­ment that would bar the mea­sure from over­rul­ing state con­sti­tu­tional bans on law­suit caps.

Their con­cerns were enough for Rep. La­mar Smith (R-Texas), the panel’s chair­man, to put off a fi­nal vote on the bill un­til af­ter he could con­sider changes to the bill that would ad­dress such states’ rights con­cerns.

Poe said in state­ment af­ter­ward that he ques­tions whether Congress has the con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to im­pose lim­its on states. “In my opin­ion, this may be a vi­o­la­tion of the 10th Amend­ment.” Poe added he is “cer­tain this is an is­sue that can be ad­dressed.”

Smith’s of­fice would not com­ment on whether he will of­fer changes to ad­dress the con­sti­tu­tional con­cerns stem­ming from the bill be­fore a fi­nal vote this week, al­though Smith said in a state­ment that he re­mained “on course to take the bill to the House floor.”

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), chair­man of the com­mit­tee’s Con­sti­tu­tion Sub­com­mit­tee, said he ex­pected “mi­nor clar­i­fi­ca­tions” to the bill to ad­dress the con­sti­tu­tional con­cerns.

The leg­is­la­tion would es­tab­lish a three­year statute of lim­i­ta­tions on mal­prac­tice law­suits; limit noneco­nomic dam­ages to $250,000; and as­sign dam­ages based on pro­por­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The fric­tion over whether a fed­eral law would or would not over­ride state con­sti­tu­tions

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