In a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, McConnell said, personal injury lawyers are “driving up the cost of medicine and premiums for all of us by filing wasteful lawsuits against hospital and doctors.
"The connection between lawsuits and higher health care costs is obvious. Because of the constant threat of these suits, doctors are forced to order costly but unnecessary tests and procedures just to protect themselves
Here is the full text of Senator McConnell’s speech:
"Over the past few months, I've delivered a series of floor speeches on the kinds of common-sense reforms that Americans were hoping for but haven't seen in the ongoing debate over health care. In particular, I've noted the glaring absence of medical liability reform in the various Democrat plans that are kicking around Capitol Hill.
"My point has been simple: throughout this debate, the administration has been hauling out one group or another onto the White House lawn as a way of suggesting support for its health care plans: doctors, nurses, hospitals, state governments - you name it. But one group you haven't seen are the personal injury lawyers who drive up the cost of medicine and premiums for all of us by filing wasteful lawsuits against doctors and hospitals across the country.
"The connection between lawsuits and higher health care costs is obvious. Because of the constant threat of these suits, doctors are forced to order costly but unnecessary tests and procedures just to protect themselves.
"The routine nature of this so-called 'defensive medicine' is one reason health care costs have skyrocketed over the past decade, and junk lawsuits are the primary reason that doctors today spend a fortune on liability insurance even before they open their doors for business.
"The prevalence of wasteful lawsuits is evidenced by the fact that Americans spend more on lawsuits than any other country and more than twice as much as all but one other country - not because American doctors are somehow more negligent, but because our lawsuits tend to be more wasteful. In fact, according to The New England Journal of Medicine, 40% of liability suits in the U.S. are entirely without merit, and even in cases in which the plaintiff prevails, most of the compensation goes to someone other than the plaintiff.
"There should be no doubt that wasteful lawsuits are a major reason that health care costs in this country are out of control - and that we should do something about it.
"We've seen the good results of medical liability reforms at the state level. States that have adopted medical liability reform have witnessed premiums for medical liability insurance fall dramatically. Recent reforms in Texas, for example, helped drive down insurance premiums for doctors by more than 25 percent. These savings have allowed doctors in Texas to see more clients and increase charity care.
"Here was a common-sense reform that surely everyone could agree on. And yet, just like the other common-sense reforms Republicans have proposed as a way of fixing our existing health care system, our advice was ignored.
"The administration and Democrat leaders in Congress were determined from the outset to press ahead with a massive expansion of government rather than take the step-by-step reforms that the American people have been asking for all along. We've seen it in every Democrat proposal, including the recently-finalized Baucus Plan.
In the face of indisputable evidence that medical liability reforms would lower costs, the Baucus Bill offers nothing more than lip service - a Sense of the Senate that 'Congress should consider establishing a state demonstration program.'
"If Democrats were serious about getting rid of junk lawsuits, I'm sure they could have found room in the 1,500-page Baucus Bill for more than that. Unfortunately, they did not.
"Americans expected more than this. At the outset of this debate, everyone agreed that one of the primary reasons for reform was the need to lower health care costs - and common-sense experience, and the testimony of all the experts, tells us unequivocally that ending junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals would lower costs. The question wasn't whether we should have included it. The only question was why would Democrats leave out such a common-sense reform?
"Unfortunately, the answer is all-too-obvious. Here's how a former Democratic National Committee chairman put it recently in a candid moment: 'The reason why tort reform is not in the bill,' he said, 'is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth.'
"That's Howard Dean talking, not Senate Republicans. Howard Dean says the reason that this obvious, common-sense reform wasn't included in the Baucus Plan is that the authors of the bill didn't want to face the wrath of the lawyers.
"This is precisely why Americans are concerned about government-driven health care. Common sense decisions become political decisions. And Americans don't want politics interfering with their health care. Medical liability reform should be in this bill. The fact that it isn't only makes Americans more concerned about the impact that government-driven health care would have on their lives and their care."
Let me know what you think about Senator McConnell’s speech.
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I believe I was destined to be a journalist. Some of my earliest memories are hanging out at the Harlan Daily Enterprise or sitting on the studio floor at WHLN Radio listening to “True Doug Stallard” spin records.