18 Nov

Respected Health Policy Legal Experts Slam Federal Tort Reform Idea

Two highly respected health policy experts and a conservative legal expert who served in the Reagan Administration have joined with the many health policy and legal experts who doubt the utility or constitutionality of federally imposed limits on damages in medical liability lawsuits.

Amitabh Chandra is Professor of Public Policy and Director of Health Policy Research at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is a member of CBO’s Panel of Health Advisors. He has testified before Congress, his research has been featured in media around the country, and he has received prestigious awards for his research. Among his many affiliations, Dr. Chandra is a Visiting Scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. He has written numerous pieces on the cost of medical liability litigation and the outcomes of medical malpractice litigation.

So it might have been a surprise to supporters of federal medmal limits that on September 16, Dr. Chandra tweeted the following:

Dr. Chandra knows that even the CBO’s flawed methodology for estimating the ten-year costs of federal medmal limits produces a miniscule result that doesn’t save the taxpayers any money. In response to his tweet, I tweeted:

In late August, Dr. Chandra described the assertion that federal tort reform is “vital” as a “train wreck” in this tweet:

Dr. Chandra sides with many Republican-side health policy expert who realize the uselessness of federal medmal caps, one of whom is Thomas Miller, also of AEI. A former senior health economist for the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), Mr. Miller is the co-author of Why ObamaCare Is Wrong For America (HarperCollins 2011) and heads AEI’s “Beyond Repeal & Replace” health reform project. He has testified numerous times before Congress on health policy issues.

Mr. Miller recently wrote, “Conservative health care reform: A reality check,” in which he discussed numerous conservative policy measures that Republicans could propose to replace Obamacare. Throughout that piece, he never even mentioned federal medmal caps as an option. That’s nothing new for Mr. Miller, who has repeatedly shunned federal medmal caps as a useless and anti-states’ rights vehicle proposed by Republicans who should know better. Other Republican-side health policy experts, such as Jim Capretta and Avik Roy, also eschew federal medmal caps for the same reasons.

Then there’s Prof. David Wagner of Regent University Law School, who served as a political appointee in the Reagan Justice Department and as a Republican counsel on Capitol Hill, and his opinions on constitutional law have been published in numerous newspapers and journals. Prof. Wagner wrote last week that a new healthcare bill proposed by some House Republicans includes alternatives that are, “from a standpoint of principled federalism, a disheartening thing to watch.” That bill, H.R. 3121, includes the old, tired cliches of federal medmal caps and a national salary structure for attorneys – stuff that’s been panned by the Randy Barnetts & Rob Natelsons of America for years. Prof. Wagner even used Randy Barnett’s favorite term to describe the Republicans who leave their allegiance to states’ rights at the courthouse door: “In moving it forward, though, I hope this particular GOP House, which took over the majority in January 2011 with claims of unprecedented concern for constitutionality of legislation, will ask itself questions about ‘fair-weather federalism.'”

Republicans who co-sponsor H.R. 3121 are just proving that they don’t have serious, fresh, truly conservative ideas to replaces Obamacare, just the same old same old.