Editorial June 30, 2017

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

From the Left

Republicans control the Senate, House, and White House. Here is the view from the left on some legislation and issues.

HR 1215 – Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017 (Rep. King (IA)

“H.R. 1215 proposes to make dangerous and potentially unconstitutional changes to our nation’s federal system, intruding on state sovereignty through the preemption of several areas of tort law that have traditionally been reserved to the states.  Respecting state sovereignty over medical malpractice makes sense because health care providers are licensed by the states, are expected to adhere to state standards, and are monitored by state authorities.

H.R. 1215 would also make it more difficult for plaintiffs to seek fair redress for medical injuries that have been proven in court.  For example, the bill eliminates joint and several liability in health care lawsuits for both economic and non-economic damages claims.  By eliminating joint and several liability, a victim could be deprived of full compensation for damages and injuries.  One of the arguments proponents use for the passage of H.R. 1215 is that it would save money and cut health care costs, but besides the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found the savings to be minimal, the elimination of joint liability for economic loss would hurt taxpayers as injured patients would turn to programs like Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare due to uncompensated financial loss.

Additionally, the legislation would cap non-economic damages (damages for pain and suffering) at $250,000, regardless of the number of parties against whom the action has been brought. For example, in a medical injury proven to have been caused by the combination of a careless attending physician using poorly maintained medical equipment to administer a faulty drug, the total non-economic damages that could be awarded to a plaintiff would be $250,000, notwithstanding the separate culpability of the medical practice, the hospital, and the manufacturer of the drug.

The legislation would also impose restrictions on plaintiff’s attorney fees.  This provision would likely discourage patients or families of limited financial means – frequently women, children, the elderly, and the disabled – from pursuing medical malpractice claims.

Medical errors, many of which are preventable, are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Rather than shield negligent or careless health care providers from accountability and expose patients to avoidable harm, as H.R. 1215 would do, Congress should focus on improving patient safety and reducing deaths and injuries.

Medical errors claim the lives of as many as 440,000 Americans per year.  The thousands of lives lost every year is in addition to victims who suffer life-altering, debilitating injuries who deserve to be compensated for their physical, emotional, and economic damage.  H.R. 1215 makes is nearly impossible for victims to be fully compensated for malpractice committed by doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities.

The Rule, which was adopted yesterday, makes in order 5 amendments, debatable for 10 minutes, equally divided between the offeror and an opponent.

Members are urged to VOTE NO.

House Minority Whip Hoyer.

Publisher’s Letter

McElroy, Publisher

McElroy, Publisher

When Congress adjourns this week it will return for three weeks and then break for five weeks to return after the first week in September. When it returns after the July 4th break the Senate hopes to have a healthcare bill that can be passed.

While the House healthcare bill squeaked by after significant divides in the Republican caucus ranging from the bill not cutting enough to too much cutting the Senate bill is facing similar divides among Republican members.

The Senate solution, should it get passed, will then go to the House for debate and, under normal circumstances would be defeated and then go to a Senate House conference where the differences will be reconciled or the bill will die there. The other possibility is that the House will accept the Senate version just to get the bill passed so that members can go home in August and say they finally repealed Obamacare, a position that appears to have gotten them elected or reelected two years ago.

The other reason the House may capitulate to the Senate version is that the Republican Congress is looking ridiculous when it comes to keeping campaign promises and even though the Senate and the House bills are set up to avoid severe cuts after the 2018 and 2020 elections to many it is obvious that both bills stink when put in contrast to the Affordable Care Act, so stinky that it could cause a significant loss of Republican seats in 2018 and the White House in 2020. So the solution may just be to keep everyone in the dark until after those elections and let the stuff hit the fan when voters can’t do anything to change it. As Trump would tweet, “SAD”.

As McConnell has said, if his Better Care Act doesn’t succeed Republicans will have to work with Democrats to get anything passed. That would be interesting because we would end up with fixing Obamacare rather than writing a new law, something that Republicans could have begun doing in 2010.

Some Senators are alluding to the solution being just that; fix the Affordable Care Act but then there is that problem of having to admit defeat, having to admit that all the rhetoric against the Affordable Care Act was nonsense. How then would they go about fixing the deplorable ACA without saying that is what they are doing? Perhaps their constituents are as easily deceived as Republicans thought the average voters were when they produced the two nasty bills they now have on the table. Getting on board with an ACA fix they would have a greater chance of losing their seats by their own base than if they passed either of their austere bills.

But Republicans have always raised political strategy to an art form if evidenced only by the fact that they have largely controlled Congress since 2000 with the exception of 2008 – 2010 and are completely responsible for any increases in the deficit, the absence of a completed budget process, and the absence of any legislation that would drive the economy such as infrastructure investments.

It can be said that whatever bill the Republicans bring to the table it will not be generous in a way the sick and uninsured need it to be. Tax breaks for medical spending, if put in place to get you your money back when you file, may seem like a solution rather than subsidies to the healthcare insurers but it will still be spending as it is that tax breaks weigh against the budget baselines and are as such spending. The difference, of course, between subsidies and tax breaks is how much of a break do you get and, if you are low income will those breaks be paid in advance of your tax filings. Those are the devils in the details we will be looking at in the next month.

There are things needing to be done that brilliant strategies will not mitigate; increases in the public debt, spending on infrastructure improvements and an actual budget that went through the proper process and is put in place in time to meet the country’s needs in 2018.

Those are tall orders for a party that can’t seem to reconcile its own differences.


Foreign Affairs

ISIS in the US

“Calling Justin Sullivan’s plot a “cold and calculated” conspiracy of ISIS-inspired terror, a federal judge in Asheville sent the 21-year-old Morganton man to prison for the rest of his life. ” – Charlotte Observer

Syria

“With the war on the Islamic State (IS) in full swing,… Forces backed regionally and internationally are fighting for the precious span of desert. What are the geopolitical calculations of the various factions in that region? ” Al Monitor

Chemical Weapons

“Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis claimed Wednesday that the Syrian government backed down after the White House said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces were preparing for another possible chemical attack. “They didn’t do it,” Mattis said.” Washington Post


Magic Mondays


Politics