(Extensions of Remarks - March 12, 2010)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E367]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. JIM McDERMOTT

                             of washington

                    in the house of representatives

                         Friday, March 12, 2010

  Mr. McDERMOTT. Madam Speaker, I rise today to debunk some of the 
health care myths we've heard from my friends across the aisle. 
Listening to my Republican colleagues, you'd think that lawyers were 
single handedly responsible for breaking our health care system. It's 
one of the major pillars of their health care proposal they recently 
unveiled and has long been one of their favorite talking points. They 
seem to have little else to talk about when it comes to health reform.
  I have always believed that you can have your own opinion but you 
can't have your own facts. For years, Republicans have claimed that 
because patients are able to sue doctors at whim for inordinate sums of 
money, doctors have been forced to buy expensive malpractice insurance. 
This system, they say, is one of the major causes of the nation's 
beleaguered health care system. But it seems Republicans have been very 
inventive with their facts.
  A new report from Public Citizen undercuts the Republican refrain 
that health care costs have skyrocketed because doctors have been 
forced to practice ``defensive medicine.'' The report found that the 
value of malpractice payments is actually at its lowest since 1999, and 
when adjusted for inflation, malpractice payments are at their lowest 
since 1992. The report goes on to show that for five consecutive years, 
the number of medical malpractice payments has fallen and for six 
straight years, the value of malpractice payments has fallen. Have we 
seen a corresponding decrease in health care costs for the last five 
years? Absolutely not. Quite the opposite, in fact: health care 
spending rose a staggering 83 percent between 2000 and 2009, while 
malpractice payments actually fell 8 percent during the same period. 
Litigation costs were found to be less than one-half of one percent of 
health care costs. Blaming our health care crisis on litigation costs 
is just baloney.
  So instead of looking into how we can hold the insurance industry 
more accountable, my Republican colleagues have made a boogeyman out of 
devilish trial lawyers. But medical malpractice costs have been wholly 
stagnant and represent an inconsequential portion of our total health 
care spending. It's time the Republicans brought some new ideas to the 
  The rest of us know the real reasons why our health care costs are 
spiraling out of control. Medical inflation continues to outpace 
general inflation. Insurance companies are making record profits and 
rewarding their executives with jaw-dropping salaries. The third 
quarter net income for Humana was almost $300 million, a 65 percent 
increase from the third quarter of 2008. The CEO of Aetna made almost 
$24 million last year while the CEO of WellPoint made nearly $10 
million. In many areas of the country, people can only get health 
insurance from only one or two companies, and with such diminished 
market competition, those companies can charge whatever they want. And 
the list goes on and on. But my Republican colleagues have conveniently 
buried their head in the sand and have literally chosen to ignore 99.5 
percent of the reasons for our nation's broken health care system.
  Sure, it is easy to demonize the trial lawyers. But if we fail to 
address the true reasons for rapidly escalating health care costs, we 
will never fix the real problems we're facing and health care costs 
will continue to skyrocket. To do otherwise would force prevent us from 
taking this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get reform right. While I 
know the final health reform bill will be far from perfect, it will 
still include meaningful and enduring reforms that will drive down 
costs and help millions of Americans. In the meantime, I hope my 
Republican colleagues will find themselves a new theme song.