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Health Care Reform

The House last week passed HR 2, which repeals the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was signed into law last year. Three Democrats joined every House Republican in voting for the legislation. Republican leaders in the House allowed one Democratic amendment to the legislation which requires any committee considering replacement provisions to the reform law to include a permanent fix to the Medicare payment physician formula. The amendment, offered by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), passed by a vote of 428-1, with the sole dissenter being Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (MI-14).

House Republicans will now turn their attention to the “replace” portion of their health care agenda. Four House committees have been tasked with writing policy to replace provisions in PPACA around several broad guidelines:

  • lowering health care premiums through increased competition and choice;
  • providing people with pre-existing conditions better access to affordable health coverage;
  • increasing the number of insured individuals;
  • providing states with greater flexibility to administer Medicaid programs;
  • providing seniors with assistance on prescription drug costs;
  • overhauling medical malpractice laws;
  • banning federal funding for abortions; and
  • protecting the physician-patient relationship.

Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that he would schedule the legislation for a vote in the Senate, Senate Republicans are attempting to force a vote by offering an amendment on the floor. Because Republicans hold only 47 of the 60 votes needed for passage, the legislation has almost no chance in the Senate.

Hearings

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on medical liability reform. Three witnesses testified at the hearing: Dr. Stuart L. Weinstein, Health Coalition on Liability and Access; Joanne Doroshow, Executive Director, Center for Justice and Democracy; and Dr. Ardis Hoven, Chairwoman, American Medical Association Board of Trustees. The hearing, which was contentious at times, was called to highlight an issue that will be a priority for House Republicans during this congress. Some Democrats objected to holding the hearing at all and Republicans challenged facts and testimony provided by Joanne Doroshow, who opposes caps on noneconomic damages or additional legislation related to tort reform.