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Public Statements

Protecting Access to Healthcare Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

The House in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 5) to improve patient access to health care services and provide improved medical care by reducing the excessive burden the liability system places on the health care delivery system:

Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Chair. I rise today to express my objections to the inclusion of H.R. 5, the HEALTH Act into H.R. 452, Medicare Decisions Accountability Act of 2011. Medical malpractice tort reform does not belong as a part of the repeal of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB.

The HEALTH Act is an inherently flawed bill that should not be considered by the House and should not be included with H.R. 452. It does not fix the problem of medical malpractice or the supposed insurance ``crisis''. Instead, it takes control away from the states, where it belongs. This legislation was originally conceived over 20 years ago and has yet to pass both houses. There is a reason for that.

The cap imposed by H.R. 5 is both unjust and unfair. It does not take into account the severity of a patient's injury or whether negligence is at issue.
The real problem we are facing is patient safety. If we fix that, then there will be no need to try and take away from the states their right to legislate this issue.

In a Wall Street Journal article, it was found that by focusing on patient safety, anesthesiologists went from being one of the most risky specialties to insure to having one of the lowest malpractice insurance premiums. In fact, their premiums are lower now than they were 20 years ago. We should not focus on medical malpractice tort reform, but rather education and training for medical professionals.

I am a strong proponent of repealing the IPAB, but cannot in good conscience vote for this bill because it is not a clean repeal.

The IPAB takes away from Congress the ability to determine Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals. It consists of 15 members who are unelected by the People, but rather are appointed by the President. The members of the IPAB are not accountable to anyone once appointed and therefore Congress loses much of the power it has to shape Medicare payment policies. By repealing the IPAB, the ACA will be strengthened, not weakened.

If this bill was as it was passed in both the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees, there would be no controversy from many of my colleagues on the Democratic side. While I supported a clean repeal of IPAB in Energy & Commerce, I cannot support a bill that will have such a profoundly negative impact on the 74,000 Medicare eligible constituents in my district. I advise my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote ``no'' on this bill as currently written.

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