PAHU On The Issues



Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation
by Vince Phillips, Lobbyist
Editor’s Note: The following three issues discuss positions and bill sponsorships taken by Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation that may be of interest to PAHU members.
HR 5 would cap non-economic medical malpractice awards at $ 250,000.  Proponents point to the need to curb the excessive trial awards that have driven up the cost of Medical Malpractice Insurance so that doctors are forced leave the state or give up their practices.  In addition, proponents cite the need for actuarial predictability in rating Med Mal.  Proponents further argue that the medical malpractice climate of fear leads doctors to overutilize the system in performing diagnostic tests that drive up the cost of health care.  Opponents question the arbitrary nature of the cap, saying that human life is not to be valued arbitrarily and say that juries should not be curbed since the little guy needs to have the ability to persuade a jury since big money interests of medicine and insurance can outgun him or her in the legal environment.
PA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION:  PA Rep. Jim Greenwood is the prime sponsor of this tort reform through HR 5, a bill that has already passed the House.  Other PA sponsors are: Melissa Hart, Tim Holden, John Murtha, Tim Murphy, John Peterson, Joe Pitts, Todd Platts, and Pat Toomey.  Holden and Murtha are Democrats.  The others are Republicans.
The House vote was 229-196 for HR 5.  In Pennsylvania it was mostly a party line vote with Republicans voting for caps with two notable exceptions.    Democratic Rep. John Murtha and Tim Holden voted for tort reform.  Some Democrats such as Mike Doyle do not oppose caps absolutely but believe that the $ 250,000 figure is too low.
In the Senate, Sen. Rick Santorum supports caps while Senator Arlen Specter does not support HR 5 in its present form.
HR 660 establishes Association Health Plans (AHPs) as a hybrid health program that would be regulated by the US Department of Labor in similar fashion to MEWA’s.  Proponents feel it would reduce health premiums for small businesses because it waives some of the costlier state mandates.  Opponents disagree, saying that states are better suited to regulate health insurance and that bogus AHPs would create a small business nightmare.  Additionally, they maintain that AHPs distort the playing field away from other health insurance programs and (because of cherry picking) increase the cost of insurance for everyone else.  There is also major concern over solvency and federal oversight standards.
PA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION:  Because of backing by President Bush, House leadership, and NFIB, most Republicans back this approach.  PA sponsors of HR 660 include Melissa Hart, John Peterson, Todd Platts, Bill Shuster, Curt Weldon, Phil English, Jim Greenwood, Joe Pitts, and Pat Toomey.  All are Republicans.
In the 262-162 House vote to pass this legislation, the count of the PA delegation was 12-8 on a party line vote with Republicans supporting HR 660 and Democrats voting against.
In the Senate, a comparable bill, S. 545, lists PA Sen. Arlen Specter as a sponsor.  Sen. Santorum is reputed to also support the concept of AHPs.
HR 1406 would remove the Waxman Amendment and permit PA to establish its own Long-Term Care Partnership program.  Goal is to have people utilize their own long-term care policy before tapping into Medicaid (taxpayer paid) program. 
Of the bill’s 32 sponsors, ten are from Pennsylvania.  This underscores PAHU’s advocacy in raising this issue to the national consciousness.
PA CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION:  Rep. John Peterson is the prime sponsor and his bill (HR 1406) has a majority of the PA delegation already having signed on.  Sponsors include: Pat Toomey, Joe Hoeffel, Phil English, Melissa Hart, John Murtha, Jim Gerlach, Bill Shuster, Jim Greenwood, Joe Pitts, Todd Platts, and Tim Murphy.  Tim Holden indicated an interest in the bill and may also sign on.
In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Rick Santorum is a sponsor of comparable legislation.



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