It’s a sad day when special interests crow about their sway on laws to cut patient access to civil justice
Members of Congress and lobbyists are taking public and premature bows for debasing the nation’s democracy and potentially harming Americans’ health and well-being.
The Washington Post has given readers a disturbing glimpse into what’s going on in the halls of the U.S. House these days, detailing how Republican representatives jammed through a bill that would strip Americans of rights in seeking redress when they suffer harms while seeking medical services.
The GOP’s so-called “reforms” of the nation’s medical malpractice laws, which independent and expert analysts have said are unnecessary and won’t produce the magical cost-savings or medical care efficiencies that advocates suggest, were concocted by a coterie of special interests—a handful of doctors and insurance industry lobbyists, the Post reports.
Republican lawmakers rammed the measure, introduced in January, through the House and its committees in a matter of weeks, all while trying to juggle the huge, complex, and eventually failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.
Partisans, as they did with the ACA, got little or no Democrat participation much less buy-in, in their malpractice measure sponsored by Iowa Congressman Steve King. Though the bill went through House committees, no hearings were held on it. Majority Republicans insisted the issue had been discussed and debated in previous sessions, so there wasn’t anything new to be considered before they whipped their proposal to the Senate. There, fortunately, it has stalled.
That hasn’t, however, stopped the industry lobbyists from crowing. They’ve taken what the Washington Post says is a rare step of trumpeting how much of the measure they dictated to lawmakers, and how malleable GOP reps have been to the wishes of insurers and physicians, notably Tom Price, an orthopedist and the chief of the Health and Human Services Department.
In my practice, I see the major harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services and the bad straits that they can be left in for lifetimes if they can’t get fair legal redress through medical malpractice lawsuits. These actions are scary and tough for the medically injured, and no one who knows anything about them can think they are frivolous.
The Republicans, in control of the House, Senate, and White House, have seen their ambitious—even reckless—agenda founder, especially on health care, as withering criticisms have built about their counter-factual arguments and neglect of democratic processes. During the crush to repeal-and-replace the ACA, even GOP senators recoiled at how partisans ignored the opposition, shut out members of their own caucus, abandoned hearings and consultations with experts and affected parties, and drafted bills in secret before springing hasty, late night, and critical votes on lawmakers.
That path on Obamacare was destructive to democracy, as so, too, has been the House Republicans’ medical malpractice push. Lawmakers may disagree with arguments made by lawyers (like me).
But it’s wrong to undercut the very real needs of medically harmed patients and their families, as a growing number of independent appellate judges in the states are insisting. The jurists rightly have said that pretend GOP “reforms” most harm those patients most injured, unconstitutionally preventing them from fair redress in the civil justice system. This is serious stuff affecting real people who are hurting, and the last thing our representative form of government needs is dim lobbyists and out-to-lunch lawmakers thinking they’re the Fun Bunch, gyrating to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” in the pages of the Washington Post. Remember, folks, the wheel turns, and karma can be grim. Here’s hoping that when members of Congress return from their long August break, they will have reflected on their recent negative conduct and actions and they make big changes.