Ross: tort reform should be on the table in health debate

Tort reform must be among the options lawmakers will consider in crafting final healthcare reform legislation, a key centrist Democrat said Thursday night.

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), the health caucus chairman in the centrist Blue Dog Democrat coalition, said that reform of medical liability lawsuits should be on the table.

"I think tort reform has to be on the table here," Ross told constituents during a tele-town hall last night. "I don't believe there's any sacred cows here, I think we've got to look at everything that's contributing to healthcare costs growing at twice the rate of inflation, and address it."

Tort reform has long been a priority of Republicans in Congress, though one conservative lawmaker suggested that offering up tort reform is unlikely to win votes for the bill.

Ross has been under criticism in more liberal quarters of the Democratic Party for being too friendly to Republican arguments and having stalled the passage of the healthcare package in the House before the August congressional recess.

Ross rejected the notion that he should show complete party loyalty.

"If you want someone to just go up there and vote 100 percent of the time with the Democrat or Republican Party, it'd be pretty easy to find someone to do that," he said. "President Obama and Speaker Pelosi didn't send me to Congress, you did."