State lawmakers: Congress shouldn't do tort reform

President Obama, during his State of the Union address, said he was willing to entertain tort reform ideas.

“I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits,” Obama told lawmakers in January.

Obama has expressed interest in tort reform several times during the past few years, but has fallen short of making a specific proposal. The healthcare reform law includes $250 million over five years for tort reform demonstration programs.

But Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), who heads the GOP Congressional Health Care Caucus, questioned Obama’s interest in those reforms. Burgess, a physician, said the White House has not responded to a letter he penned in January asking to work with the administration on medical malpractice.
 
“I am still waiting on a response,” Burgess said. “I am serious about this offer.”

In his letter to Obama, Burgess said that states, including his home state, have already established medical malpractice models the federal government can copy.

“I do not believe we need to study what may work,” Burgess wrote. “The states have done that work for us.”

In March, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the House GOP’s tort reform bill would lower the federal deficit by $40 billion over 10 years, while reducing national health spending by 0.4 percent.

Democrats on Wednesday continued to question whether the tort reform bill, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), would lower premiums by capping non-economic damages.

“I don’t believe that just having caps is going to truly control premiums,” said the subpanel’s top Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey. “It may be a factor, but a more important factor is having some sort of controls on the premiums themselves.”