What: All Issues : Health Care : Accountability of Doctors & Hospitals : A vote on a Democratic motion to send back to committee for redrafting medical malpractice legislation (HR 4280) to ensure that any monetary savings afforded to insurers from the bill's goal of reining in medical lawsuits would be passed onto health insurance policyholders
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A vote on a Democratic motion to send back to committee for redrafting medical malpractice legislation (HR 4280) to ensure that any monetary savings afforded to insurers from the bill's goal of reining in medical lawsuits would be passed onto health insurance policyholders
house Roll Call 165     May 12, 2004
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

A Democratic effort to send back to committee for redrafting medical malpractice legislation (HR 4280) was defeated 193-231, notwithstanding progressives' ardent backing of the motion. The redrafting motion would have ensured that any monetary savings afforded to insurers from the bill's goal of reining in medical lawsuits would be passed onto health insurance policyholders. That instruction, set forth in the motion to recommit (send back) the legislation offered by House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) would go to the heart of the medical malpractice crisis, progressives said. Rather than limiting the rights of legitimate malpractice victims -- as progressives contended is the case with the conservative-backed HR 4280 sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) -- Conyers' motion would "logically and directly address the problems of frivolous lawsuits and insurance industry abuses," he said. To combat frivolous lawsuits, the Conyers amendment contained in his motion to recommit addresses the problem of frivolous lawsuits, progressives said, by requiring that both an attorney and a health care specialist submit an affidavit that the claim is warranted before malpractice action can be brought and imposes strict sanctions for attorneys who make frivolous pleadings. It also provides for mandatory mediation of cases, a uniform statute of limitations, and a narrowing of the requirements for punitive damage claims. Finally, insurers would be required to dedicate at least 50 percent of any savings resulting from the litigation reforms to reduce the premiums that medical professionals pay, as opposed to pocketing their reduced costs as profits. And, unlike the conservative backed legislation, Conyers' would limit these conditions to licensed physicians and health professionals for malpractice cases only. His amendment also would establish a national commission to evaluate the rising insurance premiums and the causes for why that is occurring. Conservatives including Sensenbrenner attacked the alternative plan as failing to provide "real change," and includes "zero legal protections for doctors beyond current law." He added, "Legal reforms are essential to solving the current crisis in the medical professional liability insurance area and increasing access of health care to all." As for Conyers' proposed advisory commission, it would be charged with studying a problem "that is already patently obvious to the most casual observer and to report back sometime in the future when even more patients will have lost access to essential medical care," Sensenbrenner said. Conservatives also took issue with progressives' claim that there is no enforcement mechanism to make sure that medical professional liability rates go down, saying state insurance commissioners already are charged with overruling excessive or unjustified rate hikes.

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