Congress is considering a tort reform bill approved Wednesday (5-11-2011), by the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R. 5 , called the “Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act of 2011” would impose a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages, typically for pain and suffering; would impose a higher burden of proof on plaintiffs seeking punitive damages; and would implement other reform measures.
The following statement from Maureen Martin, senior fellow for legal affairs at The Heartland Institute, may be used for attribution. For further comment, see contact information below.
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“Tort reform is a worthy end, but in this case, the end doesn’t justify the means. In this case, the HEALTH Act represents a federal power-grab on a massive and unprecedented scale.
“First, the bill declares the provision of health care—in other words, the intensely personal and private doctor-patient relationship—can be federally regulated under the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. This has always been considered an area reserved to the states for their regulation. And one of the reasons Obamacare has been attacked in court as unconstitutional is because it, too, invades the doctor-patient relationship.
“If passed by the Congress and signed into law by the president, unthinkable breaches by the federal government of the doctor-patient relationship will be fully warranted—indeed, emboldened.
“Second, the stated goal of the legislation is to cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases and implement other worthy reform measures. But such cases have always been resolved under state laws, and the states have often been far ahead of the curve regarding medical malpractice litigation reform.
“The HEALTH Act would preempt state laws to impose reforms even in state-level cases. The long arm of the federal government would reach deep into the judicial systems of all 50 states, requiring a mixture of federal and state law to be applied to such cases. This has never before happened in the history of our judicial system. The confusion and uncertainty that would result from such a mixture would do enormous damage to our liberties.”
Maureen Martin, J.D.
Senior Fellow for Legal Affairs
The Heartland Institute
The Heartland Institute is a 27-year-old national nonprofit organization with offices in Chicago and Washington, DC. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site at http://www.heartland.org or call 312/377-4000.