Key Vote Letter on the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act of 2002
To Members of the U.S. House of Representatives:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector and region, urges you to vote for HR 4600, the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-Cost, Timely Health Care (HEALTH) Act of 2002. Reforming our medical liability system is a top health care priority for employers in their efforts to contain costs, improve health care quality, and ensure the availability of health care services and coverage.
Skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance premiums are debilitating the nation's health care delivery system in communities across the country. Increasing numbers of physicians, hospitals, and other providers are curtailing their services, relocating to other states, or simply ceasing to offer medical services altogether. This loss of medical resources will have a serious and detrimental long-term impact on the economic development of our communities. Without access to practicing physicians and high quality medical facilities, communities cannot attract businesses to locate in their area. Failure to address this burgeoning problem means more communities will endure greater difficulties attracting new businesses and retaining them, as well as recruiting high quality employees to the area.
More pointedly, excessive litigation and high medical liability premiums drive up employers' health care costs. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that seven percent of rising health care costs is due to litigation. Physicians and hospitals re-coup malpractice insurance costs through higher fees charged to patients and their health plans. In addition, to protect themselves against the prospect of being sued for medical negligence, physicians often adopt defensive tactics when rendering medical care and ordering services. This tendency to overly "err on the side of caution" when a third party pays the bill has come at the expense of both health plan dollars and patients receiving unnecessary services. Given these facts, the Chamber is disappointed that the Energy and Commerce Committee adopted a resolution during its consideration of HR 4600 that will exacerbate the problems of health care liability by expanding the liability of health plans. Our health care system needs more doctors and nurses, not trial lawyers.
While some states have adopted various elements of medical malpractice reform, it is clear that action on a national level is urgently needed to ensure that residents of all states retain access to affordable, high quality medical care. Even in states where these measures are in place, practitioners report difficulty accessing malpractice coverage as insurers cease underwriting policies for health care liability. The Chamber believes that HR 4600, the HEALTH Act, takes significant steps toward stabilizing the medical liability system and safeguarding patients' access to care while helping to contain skyrocketing health care costs. It is time to ensure that Americans can obtain the health care they need and that doctors, nurses, hospitals and clinics be able to continue serving their communities across the country. For these reasons, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will consider votes related to HR 4600 for inclusion in our annual "How They Voted" rankings.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President
U.S. Chamber of Commerce