Senate Republicans to push tort reform

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)- The U.S. Senate will have "extensive" debate on health care reform in the coming weeks, with Republicans pushing for tort reform, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday. The upper chamber narrowly voted Saturday evening to allow a Democratic-backed $848 billion health care overhaul proposal to move to the Senate floor for debate. "We'll have an extensive debate," McConnell said in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "The Senate doesn't do things quickly." McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said the bill, which reached the Senate floor by a 60-39 procedural vote, is a "job killer." Moreover, the proposed health care package that all 40 Senate Republicans oppose amounts to a government takeover of the nation's private insurance sector, critics say. McConnell said to help bring down health care costs, Republicans plan to push for legal reforms and wellness programs, among other things. "Don't hold your breath, we are not planning on having a 2,000 page bill," McConnell said on CNN. The director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, has said as much as $54 billion could be saved over the next 10 years if Congress enacts legal reforms including a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages and restricting the statute of limitations on malpractice claims. The Senate health care plan would expand insurance coverage to some-31 million uninsured Americans and bar insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions. It would also require most individuals to purchase health coverage either through their employer, on their own or through a public plan. "We do not believe completely restructuring one-sixth of our economy is a good idea at any time," McConnell said. "It is a particularly bad idea when we're looking at double-digit unemployment." McConnell said the American public is largely opposed to the Senate plan, which would be financed with a bevy of new taxes. "I believe there are a number of Democratic senators who do care what the American people think and are not interested in this sort of arrogant approach that everybody sort of shut up and sit down, get out of the way, we know what's best for you," McConnell said. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would be bankrolled with a tax on employer-sponsored group health plans with premiums over $8,500 for individual and $23,000 for family coverage. Offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the plan also calls for a 5.4 percent surtax on adjusted gross personal income exceeding $1 million for couples and $500,000 for individuals, in addition to a 5 percent tax on elective cosmetic medical procedures as well new annual fees to insurance companies and manufacturers of medical devices and brand-name prescription drugs. From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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