March 16, 2012

State Lawmakers Rail Against H.R. 5

by Levin & Perconti

As we explained earlier this week, a vote on the misguided piece of legislation known as H.R. 5 is expected soon. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys have been working to spread information about the dangers of this proposal since it was first introduced almost a year ago. The measure is a comprehensive one that, besides repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, would mandate various “tort reform” measure on every state in the country. Those “reform” measures are nothing more than elimination of various legal rights for all regular community members hurt by the negligence of others.

In response to the looming vote, many state lawmakers are speaking out against the measure. As reported in The Hill this week, the nation’s leading advocacy group for state lawmakers recently sent a letter to GOP House members who are spearheaded the H.R. 5 effort. The letter from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) sends another strong message to Congressional Republican leaders that it is extremely hypocritical to talk about the value of states’ rights while at the same time pushing federal legislation that mandates arbitrary rules against the wishes of states. In medical malpractice reform terms, that is what H.R. 5 does. In other words, even if one believes the claims made about the merit of this “reform”—and we often discuss the lack of logic in those claims—there is still no reason to support this bill.

The NCSL letter specifically notes that “there is strong bipartisan opposition” to H.R. 5. Regardless of one’s position on tort reform generally, the state law advocates remind observers that issues relating to medical malpractice, product liability, and tort law should be the province of state elected officials—not Washington lawmakers. Federalism is a principle imbedded in the national political structure. The vast majority of policy issues related to insurance licenses, court procedures, plaintiff compensation, and other matters have always been out of bounds for federal officials.

The NCSL does not take a position on tort reform positions specifically in the letter. Instead, the body reminds members of Congress that individual state legislatures have been more than capable of making up their own minds about these issues, with hundreds of pieces of legislation debated and voted on in states across the country on these issues in 2012 alone. In a sound summary of the situation, the letter notes that “the adoption of a one-size-fits-all approach to medical malpractice envisioned in H.R. 5 would undermine…diversity and disregard factors unique to each particular state.”

There is simply no argument that pushing a bill forcing states to adopt new rules in all of these areas runs directly counter to the principle of federalism. Amazingly, the lawmakers pushing this bill claim to be the nation’s most ardent supporters of federalism. Hypocrisy, it seems, is not beneath some of those doing the bidding of deep-pocketed political interests. Of course it is regular community members who are thrown under the bus.

The Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at our firm remind readers that there is still time to send a quick message to your member of Congress to voice your opposition to this bill. The vote is expected any time this upcoming week. Please follow this link to let you position be heard and help ensure justice and fairness are left open for all community members.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Impartial Organizers Lining Up Against House Resolution 5

H.R. 5 Medical Malpractice Proposals Shot Down By Committee Testimony