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House Judiciary Committee Hearing

Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.

Committee print of material to be transmitted to the Budget Committee pursuant to Section 201 of H.Con.Res.112, which establishes the U.S. government budget for FY2013 and sets forth appropriate budgetary levels for FY2014 through FY2022.

Chairman Smith: Today, in stark contrast to a Senate that has not passed a budget in three years, the Judiciary Committee takes a concrete step to help the House pass a budget. We will consider a measure to prevent massive cuts in military spending and social programs that would undoubtedly harm the security of our nation.

Last year, when the "super committee" failed to report legislation to reduce the size and scope of the federal government, a $1.2 trillion automatic cut in military spending and other social programs was triggered.

This so-called "sequester" threatens our national security. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently testified that the sequester takes a "meat-ax" to the military budget alone.

That is why this year, like last year, House Republicans passed a budget that replaces the sequester with commonsense initiatives that reduce the size and scope of the federal government. The House-passed budget attracted 228 votes; the President's budget lost by a vote of 414 to zero.

Pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution, this Committee has been instructed to report legislation that reduces mandatory spending by $39 billion over the next ten years. This Committee has further been instructed to transmit such legislation to the Budget Committee by April 27.

In order to meet our reconciliation instruction, we propose reporting the HEALTH Act to the Budget Committee. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this legislation will reduce mandatory federal spending by $41 billion over the next ten years.

It is imperative that this Committee do its part to reduce the federal government's escalating budget deficits and avoid automatic cuts to funding for our armed services and social programs.

As General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently observed, if Congress doesn't act and the Budget Control Act's automatic cuts stand, "we wouldn't be the global power that we know ourselves to be today."

America's broken medical liability system is a good place to start to reduce federal spending and to avoid cuts Secretary of Defense Panetta has said will "put a gun . . . to the head of the country" and "weaken our defense system for the future."

By reporting the HEALTH Act to the Budget Committee, we can begin the process of reducing federal deficits and avoiding automatic spending cuts that will cause irreparable harm to our national security.

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The HEALTH Act meaningfully reforms our medical liability system. It is modeled after California's decades-old and highly successful health care litigation reforms. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the rate of increase in medical professional liability premiums in California since 1976 has been one-third as much as the rate of increase experienced in other states.

By incorporating California's time-tested reforms at the Federal level, the HEALTH Act saves taxpayers billions of dollars, encourages health care providers to maintain their practices and reduces health care costs for patients. It especially helps traditionally under-served rural and inner city communities, and women who seek obstetrics care.

This bi-partisan medical liability reform legislation cuts health care costs, spurs medical investment, creates jobs and increases access to health care for all Americans.

The HEALTH Act's reforms include a $250,000 cap on noneconomic damages and limits on the contingency fees lawyers can charge.

The HEALTH Act also includes provisions that create a "fair share" rule, by which damages are allocated fairly in direct proportion to fault. And it provides reasonable guidelines on the award of punitive damages.

The HEALTH Act allows for the payment of 100% of plaintiffs' economic losses. These unlimited economic damages include all their medical costs, their lost wages, their future lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and any other economic out-of-pocket loss suffered as the result of a health care injury. It also does not preempt any State law that otherwise caps damages.

This bill is a common-sense and constitutional approach to reducing the cost of healthcare.

The HEALTH Act also reduces the cost of health care as it decreases the waste in our system caused by "defensive medicine." This practice occurs when doctors are forced by the threat of lawsuits to conduct tests and prescribe drugs that are not medically required.

According to a Harvard University study, 40% of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in the United States lack evidence of medical error or any actual patient injury. Many of these suits amount to legalized extortion of doctors and hospitals.

But because there are so many lawsuits, doctors are forced to conduct medical tests simply to avoid a lawsuit in which lawyers claim that not "everything possible" was done for a patient. This wasteful defensive medicine adds to all our health care costs without improving the quality of patient care.

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama said "I'm willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."

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Let's help the President keep his word and put this commonsense liability reform on his desk. These reforms save the taxpayers billions of dollars and help avoid automatic defense cuts that threaten our national security. Let's send this proposal to the Budget Committee.

Read this original document at: http://judiciary.house.gov/news/statement%20budget%20reconciliation.html

Copyright:(c) 2010 Federal Information & News Dispatch, Inc.
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