U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Tacoma) is disappointed that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to address the health care crisis that the United States is facing and chose instead to help those least in need. He made the following statement:
“The U.S. House of Representatives had an historic opportunity this week to help the more than 45 million Americans without health insurance,” said Smith. “Instead, the Republican majority passed bills that protect Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and not doctors and patients. We also passed an Association Heal Plans (AHPs) bill that only helps a small fraction of uninsured Americans.
H.R. 5, the Medical Malpractice Reform Act is a bad bill because it broadly defines “medical malpractice action” to protect HMOs, insurance companies, nursing homes and drug and device manufacturers from a broad range of liabilities, including suits by physicians against those companies. The bill provides a cap on punitive damages that is far too low and would hurt those at the bottom end of the income scale. It will also seriously restrict the rights of injured patients from being fully compensated for their injury by imposing an impossibly high standard of proof needed to bring a successful case against negligent defendants. Instead of penalizing innocent victims of medical malpractice, Congress should be focusing on reducing the number of mistakes made. Medical errors and rising malpractice insurance rates are important issues that must be dealt with but unfortunately this bill does not fix these problems.
I was also disappointed about the passage of H.R. 525, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, which creates AHPs. If this legislation is enacted, these AHP’S sold by associations would be exempt from state insurance law and regulatory oversight. The right of states to apply a large body of insurance laws and regulations would be removed, undermining consumer protections, solvency and fair marketing practices, grievance and appeals procedures, premium taxation and prohibitions on discrimination. This bill would create a big government program and expand federal control by giving the government sole regulatory authority over these entities. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that only 600,000 of the more than 45 million uninsured will be provided new coverage by AHPs. This is not only unfair and does nothing to help solve the health care crisis that our country faces.
I voted for an alternative bill to AHPs that would have established a health insurance plan similar to the plan enjoyed by Federal employees. Unlike, AHPs, this alternative would not have allowed insurance companies to cherry pick younger healthier workers. Everyone would be on equal footing and older and sicker Americans would not be forced to pay higher insurance premiums or have no insurance at all. Most importantly, under this alternative bill, participating insurers would remain subject to state laws applicable to the states in which they cover residents.
America needs a real solution to our mounting health care crisis. The bills that passed the House of Representatives this week are not a step forward and do not address the needs of the more than 45 million uninsured. Alternatives that would have helped America were proposed but did not pass. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Americans get the healthcare coverage they need and deserve."