National news was dominated this week by the release of the United States Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the landmark Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). As most know, in a move that surprised many legal pundits, in a 5-4 decision the high court approved virtually all provisions within the controversial legislation. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys appreciate that one of the biggest surprises was that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four more liberal members of the court in upholding the law.
Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm was particularly pleased at the result considering the law including various requirements aimed at improving patient safety and cracking down on medical errors. There were concerns that those critical provisions would fall following an unconstitutionality finding by the court.
However, it is important not to forget the the law itself is not safe. Various legislative leaders have voiced strong opposition to the bill. They have already made calls to use legislative means to get rid of the bill. For example, Republican Majority Whip Representative Eric Cantor already mentioned that the House would vote on a full repeals of the law on July 9th. It remains unclear, but it is likely that the House will try to replace the law with something else. This is particularly concerning, because the “replacement” will likely include various medical malpractice “tort reform” proposals which would strip the legal rights from those hurt by others.
Interestingly, the details of the Courts ruling may act as yet another barrier to any alternative law passed that includes tort reform issues. In upholding the “individual mandate” the Court rejected the idea that the Commerce Clause provided the government with the power to enforce the mandate. Instead the mandate was allowable only because it could be construed as a “tax.”
This reading of the Commerce Clause seemingly bars similar federal action that forces states to abide by certain laws–like national tort reform laws. In the majority opinion the Chief Justice noted that “State sovereignty is not just an end in itself: Rather, federalism secures to citizens the liberties that derive from the diffusion of sove power.”
He went on to note that “The facets of governing that touch on citizens’ daily lives are normally administered by smaller governments closer to the governed.”
These word are directly relevant to tort reform issues. The inter-workings of local court systems are of crucial importance to residents. The decisions about how those systems operate have also been reserved for states. Changing that, and dropping mandates in on high from the the federal government, would be in direct opposition to the claims of federalism made by the very conservatives who so often want to pass these tort reform laws.
All those who care about honesty, transparency, and logic should remain vigilant as political debate heats up on these issues. Our medical malpractice attorneys urge holding those making claims about federal tort reform laws to explain their position fully. They should not be allowed to make drastically inconsistent claims without anyone calling them out on it.
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