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Public Statements

Repealing Mandatory Funding for Graduate Medical Education

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BILBRAY. Mr. Chairman, I wasn't planning on addressing this item, but I heard so many of my colleagues, especially those on the other side, talk about the crisis of providing the doctors that are going to be essential for health care, and finally we are talking about health care, not health care insurance.

As somebody who spent 10 years supervising the safety net for a community of 3 million in San Diego County, I just wish my colleagues on the other side, when they're worried about pediatricians and primary health care people, would understand that if you really want to protect those providers, why don't we sit down and talk about true tort reform, especially for the pediatricians. This is a cost that is bearing down. And when you're asking young people to get an education to be a primary health care provider, especially a pediatrician, explain to them why somebody on public assistance, on welfare, has more right to sue their physician than those men and women who are serving in uniform.

The fact is there is no way that we should be sitting up here saying that we really want the next generation to get into health care unless we're willing to tell our friends who are the trial lawyers that we're going to take the physicians off the counter; we're not going to allow lawsuits to be part of the overhead that is driving people out of the health care business.

And I hope to say to both sides, if you really want to make sure there are future doctors, then let's have the bravery to stand up today and do something about the tort that those future doctors are looking at before they go into school.


Mr. BILBRAY. Mr. Chairman, I want the gentleman from Texas to understand that when a physician or a student is planning on getting into a field, they not only look at will the government guarantee that I'll be able to get the tuition, but they're looking at what field am I moving into. And let me just tell you, as a fact, in California, even with our tort reform, somebody who wants to volunteer as a Medicaid volunteer has to file an $80,000 or $90,000 insurance policy just for volunteering.

So when the gentleman talks about the educational side, that it's essential that we encourage people to get into the field, my point for being here is you cannot talk about the educational when you ignore the environment that you're asking them to go into. And the fact is: What parent would ask somebody to go into this field and be a physician with all the education and all the expenses when they can tell their kids to be a lawyer and sue those physicians for every cent they have ever been able to earn?

That's why we've got to talk about both of these together. But you can't stand up and say we want these essential services but not be willing to get the trial lawyers off the backs of these physicians so they can provide those essential services.


Mr. BILBRAY. Reclaiming my time, look, the fact is these physicians are being held with a liability that is inappropriate, way over the head, and it is not justifiable----

The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Fortenberry). The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. GUTHRIE. I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.

Mr. BILBRAY. We're talking about the fact that those who want to stand up and say we'll spend Federal funds to create an environment to provide health care but then are not willing to say, not just the fact that we find special tort coverage--and I know that the gentleman from Texas knows because I was at a county level providing those services. We have Federal programs that protect those in the community clinic. But we're not just talking about the little bit of protection we get with our Federal protection. We're talking about the whole tort exposure needs to be considered.

And if you want to talk about access and stand up here and have the moral high ground on access, you've got to be willing to take on the big guy, the powerful trial lawyers, and say, look, physicians are going to be held harmless from your lawsuits. We're going to find a reason to encourage young people to go to school not just by providing Federal subsidies to their tuition, but also telling them, once you get your degree, you'll be able to go into a field where you'll be able to practice your art of medicine without having somebody who has never had to make a life-and-death decision drag you before a judge and a jury and attack you for your decisions.


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