RICHMOND (Legal Newsline) - In response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday night, former Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell told the country that eliminating meritless lawsuits should be a key part of health care reform.
McDonnell, recently inaugurated as the state's governor, was chosen by the Republican party to deliver its response to Obama's speech. He responded to Obama's call for health care reform.
"Republicans in Congress have offered legislation to reform healthcare, without shifting Medicaid costs to the states, without cutting Medicare, and without raising your taxes," he said.
"We will do that by implementing common sense reforms, like letting families and businesses buy health insurance policies across state lines, and ending frivolous lawsuits against doctors and hospitals that drive up the cost of your healthcare."
Medical malpractice insurance and defensive medicine practices have been blamed for increased costs and reduced care.
A Rasmussen Reports survey released in December showed 57 percent of voters feel caps on damages should be placed on medical malpractice suits.
Forty-seven percent of those polled also believe tort reform can help ease healthcare costs, while 28 percent do not and 25 percent are undecided.
The Senate plan, opposed by all 40 Republicans, lacks legal reforms such as a cap on medical malpractice awards -- something sought by doctors.
Howard Dean, a former Vermont governor, Presidential candidate and physician, said at a town hall meeting in August that the reason significant tort reform measures aren't being included in the legislation is that lawmakers are scared of upsetting trial lawyers.
"When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that, the more stuff you put in it, the more enemies you make," Dean said.
"And the reason tort reform is not in the bill 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."
McDonnell also criticized Obama's energy policies. In his speech, Obama said the United States needs to be a world leader in clean energy.
"Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills," McDonnell said.
"Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore. But this Administration's policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes.
"Now is the time to adopt innovative energy policies that create jobs and lower energy prices."
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.