Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Representing the 12th District of California

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Pelosi: The Majority's Medical Malpractice Bill Is a Windfall for Big Drug Companies

Jul 28, 2005
Press Release

Pelosi: The Majority's Medical Malpractice Bill Is a Windfall for Big Drug Companies

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Contact: Brendan Daly/Jennifer Crider, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. â€" House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke today on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 5, the Medical Malpractice bill, which passed in the House this afternoon. Below are Pelosi’s remarks:

“Instead, the Republican medical malpractice bill, first and foremost, is a windfall to the big drug companies at the expense of Americans who have been injured or killed by harmful and unsafe drugs. Once again, protecting the big drug companies is at the top of the Majority's agenda.”

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlemen from Michigan, Mr. Dingell and Mr. Conyers, for their outstanding leadership. I especially would like to acknowledge â€" on this 40th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid â€" the contributions of Mr. Dingell in providing health care security for Americans, and for upholding the fundamental principle that Democrats believe in â€" that health care is a right, not a privilege.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the Republican medical malpractice bill.

“Let me begin with this simple fact: Under President Bush, 5.2 million more Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. Today, 45 million Americans have no health insurance.

“The bill before us does not, nor do any other Majority-backed bills during this so-called health week, provide health insurance to one single American.

“This bill is not about solving the urgent health insurance crisis that affects millions of American families, nor is it about improving our health care system, containing costs, or even lowering medical malpractice insurance premiums.

“Instead, the Majority's medical malpractice bill, first and foremost, is a windfall to the big drug companies at the expense of Americans who have been injured or killed by harmful and unsafe drugs. Once again, protecting the big drug companies is at the top of the Republican agenda.

“The Majority attempted to hide the true purpose and the real reason for this bill. It contains a special liability waiver for drug companies for the types of injuries caused by drugs. Under this bill, when Americans are injured or even killed by drugs that have been negligently marketed, they will not be able to obtain justice and hold drug companies wholly accountable.

“The House Majority leadership â€" beholden to the pharmaceutical companies â€" refused to allow amendments that would strike this unjust provision. As with the Medicare prescription drug bill, where the Majority prohibited the government from negotiating for low prices for seniors and forbade Americans from purchasing lower-priced drugs from Canada, this is yet another example of the Majority being the handmaidens of the pharmaceutical industry.

“The medical malpractice bill is an extreme bill that is an injustice to consumers, and it unconscionably rewards irresponsible drug companies.

“If we are to remain a nation that seeks justice for all, the special liability waiver for drug companies must be removed. Unfortunately, the Majority refused to permit the consideration of the Emanuel-Berry amendment to remove this unjust and reprehensible provision.

“Apart from pandering to drug companies, this bill utterly fails to achieve its stated purpose: it will not lower malpractice insurance premiums, nor does it address the real cause.

“The real cause of high malpractice premiums is not the payouts for malpractice claims. Former Missouri State Insurance Commissioner Jay Angoff issued a recent study showing that the amount collected in premiums by major medical malpractice insurers has doubled, while the claims paid out have remained flat, resulting in excessive profits and excessive reserve surpluses. The Angoff study found that insurance companies are charging far more for malpractice insurance than actual payments or estimated future payments warrant. This finding is also supported by numerous studies that document that in states that have enacted caps on damage awards they have not seen their premiums for malpractice insurance lowered.

“Rather than addressing insurance companies’ refusal to lower rates, the bill instead interferes with the rights of injured Americans to be compensated for their injuries and have their claims heard by a jury of their peers. If enacted, the cap on damages would severely harm women, children, and the elderly who have been injured.

“Unfortunately, the Majority's leadership did not allow the Democratic substitute by Mr. Conyers and Mr. Dingell to be offered. The Democratic substitute supports sensible approaches that permit only valid claims to go forward. More significantly, the Democratic substitute addresses real causes for premium increases and offers real solutions for the doctors. It repeals the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies. It provides targeted assistance to help physicians stay in crisis areas.

“We all respect the magnificent contributions that doctors provide to our society. It is not only a profession, it is a vocation, and we literally cannot live without them. So it is with great respect for them that I say they deserve better than this bill which purports to help them.

“President Harry Truman said it so well. ‘The Democratic Party stands for the people. The Majority stands, and always has stood, for special interests.’ That was true almost 60 years ago when he said it, and it is certainly true today.

“Let us uphold the public interest. Let us stand up to the big drug and insurance companies, and let us oppose this unjust bill.”