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Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2005

Location: Washington DC

HELP EFFICIENT, ACCESSIBLE, LOW-COST, TIMELY HEALTHCARE (HEALTH) ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 28, 2005)


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. Speaker, today, the House of Representatives will debate and vote on a proposal that supporters claim will solve the problem of increasingly unaffordable medical malpractice insurance premiums for our Nation's doctors. They argue that outrageous jury awards are to blame for rising healthcare costs.

I am afraid this bill is not the end-all, save-all solution to our health care crisis; and, in fact, I fear it will do nothing to relieve the burden our doctors face. If we are serious about lowering the cost of medical malpractice insurance why aren't we addressing the issue of insurance reform or ways in which we can weed out bad doctors, or for that matter, trial lawyers who abuse the court system?

This bill does little more than set a 1970's era cap on jury awards for medical malpractice cases, an action which will only hurt those who are already suffering--the patients and their loved ones.

An analysis of State by State medical malpractice insurance premiums, obtained from the Medical Liability Monitor, compared with caps on damages reveals no conclusive evidence these caps work. In fact, according to one survey, insurance premiums in states with caps were on average $4170 higher than those in States without caps.

This bill goes much further than simply addressing the medical malpractice insurance dilemma; it even sets caps on damages for nursing home neglect, unsafe prescription drugs, and a variety of other health-related industries. In 2004, Congress and others raised questions about the safety and effectiveness of several FDA-approved biomedical products on the market, including certain antidepressants, Merck's pain relief drug, Vioxx, Boston Scientific's cardiac stents, and other drugs and medical devices. Evidence has suggested that there were problems with these items during clinical trials.

Does this Congress really want to protect companies who knowingly put dangerous products on the market? I know I don't.

H.R. 5 does not go nearly far enough to address the climbing medical malpractice insurance rates or the healthcare crisis our constituents are trying to negotiate. I again pose the questions, why doesn't this bill address the insurance industry; why aren't we trying to weed out bad doctors; or punish trial lawyers who abuse the system?

We need something more than caps on jury awards to lower the cost of health care in this country.


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