Published January 19, 2011
The concerns of the American people were ignored by the Democratic-majority in Congress when the health care bill was enacted. Despite promises from the administration for an open debate and fair process, the bill that became law was put together behind closed doors. Few citizens had time to read the nearly 2,000 page bill before it was brought to the floor for a vote. Republicans were denied any opportunity to amend the controversial legislation. The Democratic-majority ran roughshod over the democratic process.
This week the House will have an up-or-down vote to repeal the Democrats’ health care law and start over. Though Republicans now control the majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats still hold the Senate and the White House.
We know that we face a long and tough battle in our efforts to fully repeal the bill. But we will take the first step because this law stifles job creation, increases costs and limits freedom.
The Democrats’ health care law violates the Constitution and common sense. Never before has the federal government required people to buy any good or service—until now. It mandates that every person purchase a certain kind of health insurance. This is a clear violation of the Constitution and sets a dangerous precedent for the federal government’s ability to regulate the choices of Americans.
And the Democrats’ health care plan ignores common sense solutions to skyrocketing health care costs. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, 40% of medical malpractice suits filed in the U.S. are "without merit."
The threat of these suits forces doctors to conduct tests and prescribe medicines that are not medically required. The widespread practice of "defensive medicine" drives up the costs of health care. That’s why some states have enacted lawsuit abuse reform to limit frivolous lawsuits.
Medical malpractice reforms in Texas resulted in a drop in health care premiums of 27 percent; meanwhile, the number of doctors applying to practice in the state has increased by 60 percent. That means Texans pay less to have better health care.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that lawsuit abuse reform would save taxpayers $54 billion over the next decade. This would help American families struggling with health care costs and protect medical personnel from unfair lawsuits.
Unfortunately, the law passed by the last Congress goes exactly the wrong direction. Rather than including reforms to limit frivolous lawsuits, the Democrats’ health care law makes lawsuit abuse even worse. It allows trial lawyers to opt out of any alternatives to litigation and continue filing lawsuits. And we know they’ll do this, because it’s how they make money.
The health care bill exposes doctors to even more of these lawsuits if they fall short of the new federal guidelines created by the law. Many of these suits are nothing more than the legalized extortion of doctors and hospitals. Unfortunately, the current law does nothing to stop them or to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded.
Frivolous lawsuits not only make medical care more expensive, they drive more doctors out of business. Doctors who specialize in inherently high-risk fields are leaving their practices, and hospitals are shutting down because the high cost of lawsuit insurance.
Our first step as a new Congress will be to repeal Democrats’ job-stifling health care bill. Following that vote, the House Judiciary Committee will begin to examine the real reforms that can help reduce health care costs while maintaining a high standard of care.
We need to start over and get it right. Our legislation will not be written behind closed doors, and we won’t shut Democrats out of the process. We look forward to developing real health care solutions for the American people.
Republican Congressman Lamar Smith represents Texas’ 21st district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.