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Providing For Consideration Of H.R. 4626, Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the gentlewoman from North Carolina for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I believe in enforcing our Nation's antitrust laws. And this bill has been improved since Judiciary Committee consideration. However, this legislation is still flawed, and in my opinion is meant to distract attention away from the fact that the majority is not working on the real issues the American people want us to address. Americans want policies that will reduce premiums and increase the quality of health care services in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is questionable whether this bill will accomplish these goals.

I am also very disappointed in the rule for this bill, which was closed from the beginning, and blocks well-intentioned amendments offered by Republicans to make the bill better. Specifically, an amendment was offered by Representative DAN LUNGREN, a fellow member of the Judiciary Committee, to allow small health insurance companies to continue to be able to share historic loss data so that they can compete with big insurance companies. Under the text of the current bill, this type of sharing would be illegal, which would hinder new and smaller companies from entering the market, competing with the big guys, and offering lower premiums.

The shocking thing is that this amendment was actually adopted in the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis. The provision was then stripped by the majority in this new bill. So stifling this amendment today represents the second time the majority has blocked Representative LUNGREN's amendment, which had bipartisan support, and which would have likely reduced health care premiums for citizens.

Instead of bringing flawed legislation to the floor, we should be working together to pass real reforms, like legislation to allow citizens to take their health insurance across State lines if they move, legislation to help those with preexisting conditions find affordable coverage, and legislation to curb frivolous lawsuits against doctors, which drive up health insurance premiums and provide increased costs due to defensive medicine.

The American medical liability system is broken. According to one study, 40 percent of claims are meritless: either no injury or no error occurred. Attorneys' fees and administrative costs amount to 54 percent of the compensation paid to plaintiffs. The study found that completely meritless claims, which are nonetheless successful approximately one in four times, account for nearly a quarter of total administrative costs.

Defensive medicine is widely practiced and costly. Skyrocketing medical liability insurance rates have distorted the practice of medicine. Costly but unnecessary tests have become routine, as doctors try to protect themselves from lawsuits. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Massachusetts Medical Society, 83 percent of physicians reported that they practiced defensive medicine. Another study in Pennsylvania put the figure at 93 percent. While estimates vary, the Pacific Research Institute has put the cost of defensive medicine at $124 billion. Others have arrived at even higher figures.

I urge my colleagues to oppose this rule.

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We should be working to eliminate these hundreds of billions of dollars of waste from our medical system in order to drive down premiums to make health care more affordable. We should be working to help those with preexisting conditions get affordable coverage. Unfortunately, we are doing neither today. We can do better.

Mr. Speaker, while I may vote for this bill it could have been made better by an open rule and the allowance of the Lungren amendment. But this bill is hardly a cure all and there is so much more we could do if the majority would open up the health insurance process to good proposals that the American people support.

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