During his briefing with bloggers today, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas repeatedly turned to the federalism and the 10th Amendment of the Constitution as core principles informing his approach toward domestic policy issues. Let states like Maryland or California experiment with high taxes or more regulations while Texas does the opposite, he argued. The American people can choose where they prefer to live.

We noted that several conservative Republicans on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee had expressed opposition to H.R. 5, the medical liability reform bill, on just those grounds.

“I don’t want national tort reform,” Perry said forcefully.

Let me tell you why. We have medical tort reform in the state of Texas. It works. We are a haven.  Twenty-six thousand doctors have applied to practice medicine in Texas since 2003 when our tort reform became the law in Texas. Here’s what disturbs me: If they pass a national bill, I would bet you dollars to donuts, it is weaker than what we’ve got in Texas. So our physicians would be in a less favorable position from the standpoint of protection from frivolous lawsuits. …

I don’t ever get confused that this issue’s about doctors. It’s about access to care, because what we’ve seen in Texas – and I don’t want to spend too much time on this — but what we’ve seen in Texas was that because of the proliferation of frivolous lawsuits that occurred in Texas in the ‘90s and the early part of the 2000s, you had particularly high risk for specialties like OBY-Gen, orthopedic surgeons.

And…

In the grand and global sense, anything in the constitution about tort reform? Leave that to the states. Come down and actually put the people on the border. Put the aviation assets in the air so we can have the protection for our citizens, and frankly, the Mexican citizens as well, and stop these drug cartels. That IS a federal responsibility that they are abject failures at, at present.

The first quotes are here as an .mp3 file, and the second cut is here.

The governor’s position, most directly applicable to caps on punitive damages, is not a popular one with House Republicans who view medical liability reform as an important element of their drive to control health care costs.

There are provisions H.R. 5 that clearly involve interstate commerce and are thus appropriate for federal legislation, specifically the treatment of drugs and medical devices that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. See our post, “Why Medical Liability Reform Matters to Manufacturers.”

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