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Protecting Access to Healthcare Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BRALEY of Iowa. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Chairman, here we go again. My conservative friends are once more trying to take away rights of American citizens that are as old as the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. They're doing it by talking about taking away the rights of patients without ever mentioning the words ``patient safety.''

This issue has been with us for a long time. In fact, about 10 years ago, the highly regarded Institutes of Medicine did three studies on the issue of patient safety and the alarming cost it adds to our overall health care delivery system.

The first of their studies was called ``To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.'' On this cover it says: ``First, Do No Harm.'' The study concluded that every year up to 98,000 people die in this country due to preventable medical errors. It also talked in this study about the cost of those medical errors. It estimated that the cost of failing to stop these preventable medical errors is between $17 billion and $29 billion a year. Now, if you multiply that over the 10 years of the Affordable Care Act, that means if we eliminated those errors, we would save $170 to $290 billion a year.

So do we focus on patient safety and preventing medical errors? No, we focus on taking away the rights of the most severely injured. Because it's what caps on damages do, they penalize those with the most egregious injuries and those who have no earning capacity. So who are those people? They're seniors, they're children, and they are stay-at-home mothers. They're the ones most severely penalized when you take away rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. So I oppose this bill in the name of the Tea Party, not just the current Tea Party, but the original Tea Party, which was founded in opposition to taxation without representation.

If you go to Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, you will see that grievance against King George listed. Right below it in the Declaration of Independence is this grievance, that he has taken away the right to trial by jury. That right was so important, ladies and gentlemen, that it was embedded in the Seventh Amendment to the Bill of Rights. It says very clearly that in suits at common law, which is what a medical negligence claim is, the jury gets to decide all questions of fact and no one else. Well, one of the most important questions of fact in a jury trial is the issue of damages. My friends are trying to take away that right from the jury--the very same people who elected us to Congress--because they apparently think that Congress knows more than the people who sent us here, those who go into jury boxes all over this country in your State and listen to the actual facts of the case before deciding what's fair, including the all-important issue of what are fair and reasonable damages.

So they're talking a lot today about defensive medicine. I want to tell you about the myth of defensive medicine. Every time a health care provider submits a fee-for-services, they represent that that medical procedure or that medical test was medically necessary. If they don't make that representation, they don't get paid. Well, guess what, folks? If something is performed and billed as ``medically necessary,'' that, by definition, is not defensive medicine, because defensive medicine is when you're doing something that's not medically necessary to protect yourself from litigation. So you can't have it both ways. You can't take the money and claim you are practicing defensive medicine.

We also heard about the myth of setting these caps 30 years ago and never adjusting them for inflation. They always want to talk about the California bill that was passed in the mid-seventies and impose the very same cap in this bill, $250,000.

What they don't tell you is, if you adjust that cap based on the rate of medical inflation over that same period of time, the cap would now be worth almost $2 million and that, if you reduce that $250,000 cap to present value, those people in today's dollars are only getting the equivalent of $64,000, no matter how serious their injury is.

That's why I oppose this legislation, and that's why people who believe in the Constitution and in the States' rights, under the 10th Amendment, to decide what their citizens will receive as justice should be outraged that this bill is on the floor today.


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