Madison - St. Clair Record

Friday, February 28, 2020

Letter to 'Super Committee' Opposing Federal Tort Reform Proposals

By Andrew Cochran | Oct 16, 2011


I've delivered a nine-page letter to the office of each of the 12 members of Congress who sit on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the "Super Committee" or "supercommittee."

The Super Committee was formed through the debt ceiling deal reached in early August as the vehicle to identify at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction measures over the next ten years. The Super Committee is supposed to propose recommendations by November 23, and Congress will have a month to hold a straight up-or-down vote on its recommendations. If the Super Committee fails to reach an agreement, then under the debt ceiling deal, we'll see $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts.

I wrote my letter in response to a proposal submitted to the Super Committee by the AMA and other medical groups. They've urged the Super Committee to include a federal tort reform law similar to H.R. 5, the "HEALTH Act" introduced to sharply limit lawsuits against doctors, hospitals, drug and device manufacturers, health insurance companies, and nursing homes.

"Big Medicine" continues to seek partial immunity from negligence and deadly errors through federal law, just as they sought to expand their patient base by pushing for ObamaCare. As I've written here many times, ObamaCare and federal tort reform laws suffer from the same deficiency: both are an unconstitutional abridgment of states' and individual rights, based on an dangerous interpretation of the Commerce Clause that would enable Uncle Sam to run our lives. Additionally, imposing federal limits on health care-related lawsuits won't make a dent in the federal budget deficit. Here are selections from the opening paragraphs in the letter:

I want to express strong objections to any proposal to include severe limits on health care-related lawsuits in your deficit reduction recommendations. First, such a proposal is unconstitutional as an abuse of the limited powers enumerated for the federal government in the Constitution. Federally imposed lawsuit limits would violate the right of each state to run its civil litigation system. Second, estimates by the Congressional Budget Office of "savings" as a result of the imposition of such limits are highly suspect and therefore should be ignored.

This year, a clear consensus has developed against federally imposed limits on health care-related lawsuits on constitutional grounds, as expressed by respected conservative legal experts such as Professor Randy Barnett; longtime tort reform proponents Walter Olson and Ted Frank; Republican Members of Congress such as Sen. Tom Coburn and Reps. Ted Poe, John Duncan, and Ron Paul; and the largest association of state legislators in the country. A lengthy discussion of the development of this consensus is instructive.

I then discussed the writings of all of those individuals and groups, all of which I have already posted here in my posts, Conservative Legal Experts Oppose 'Federal Tort Reform' and Even Tort Reform Proponents Oppose National Texas-Style Law.

I also discussed four deficiencies in the Congressional Budget Office's estimate of the budget savings that would result from federal limits on medical malpractice and other health care-related lawsuits. I posted about those deficiencies here in my post, Debt Reduction 'Supercommittee' Should Ignore CBO's Guesswork on 'Tort Reform'. CBO estimated savings of about $60 billion over ten years, which is less than 1/2 of 1 percent of the $1.5 trillion in the intended deficit reduction. In conclusion, I wrote, "Anyone betting on federal lawsuit limits to help us to balance the budget is wasting their time. Not only is it unconstitutional, but it won't raise real money and solve our budget problems."

You can download my letter to the Super Committee here.

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