The legislative process can be tough for community members to follow closely. The advance or defeat of bills rarely occurs at a standard, predictable pace or timeline. Instead, some proposals are brought forward one day, not acted upon for months, and then furiously advanced through the entire process in a week. At other time a bill can be introduced and fast tracked seemingly overnight. With a plethora of parliamentary rules and procedures in place, there is no easy way to say with certainty whether any piece of legislation is ever completely defeated.
This principle is bearing out right now on an issue of vital important to all those who care about preserving legal rights for community members, including our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers. For months we have reported on a dangerous proposal known as House Resolution 5 (H.R. 5). The bill would mandate a wide range of changes in legal rules across the country which cumulatively would have disastrous effects on the rights of those hurt by medical malpractice, nursing home negligence, and many other forms of mistreatment. Stalled for over a year, the measure now appears poised for a vote by the full House of Representatives.
The American Association for Justice (AAJ) recently issued an alert updating advocates on the situation and urging that all those who care about defeating the bill to ensure their own representatives are made aware of their opposition. According to the AAJ the bill has been thrown onto the fast-track in the Republican controlled House. A vote on the floor is expected as early as next week. Apparently, the vote on the measure is supposed to be timed such that it coincides with the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of oral arguments related to the recently passed Affordable Care Act of 2010. This is no doubt a political move that will be used to capitalize on national attention related to healthcare issues generally. On top of dangerous tort reform provisions, H.R. 5 also includes legislation which would repeal parts of the healthcare bill.
The tort reform measures advocated in the bill are completely unnecessary. The most favorable estimates from the Congressional Budget Office only suggest that the savings from tort reform would max out at one half of one percent of all healthcare spending. The costs of those savings are entirely unacceptable, considering that the changes would drastically limit the accountability function served by civil lawsuits. Nearly 100,000 people die every year because of preventable medical errors. Those cost of the extra care as a result of those errors is $300 billion annually. In other words, no matter what way you slice it, this legislation is not only unfair and illogical but harmful.
The AAJ reminds advocates that the measure needs to be defeated in the House both to stall the advances of the misguided bill as well as to send a strong message to the Senate that the measures are not indicative of the wishes of most community members. To help out with the effort now, please take a moment to contact your Congressperson to voice your opposition to H.R. 5. Though sometimes it may not seem like it, when Representatives get a flood of communication on a particular piece of legislation, they certainly take notice. Remember that the vote is expected next week, so there is no time to delay.
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