Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Misrepresentation of provision to make 2010 health care law apply to Congress PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 22 October 2012 13:41
Friday, October 19, 2012

 

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the comment below following a New York Times story today that a provision in the 2010 health care law is being distorted in fall campaign ads.

 

Grassley comment:

 

“Remember, it was Republicans who made this law apply to Congress, not the Democrats who wrote the law.   The Democrats were perfectly fine with applying Obamacare to the entire economy but leaving themselves out.  Despite passage of my amendment, Democrats still carved out exemptions for high-level staff, despite Republican efforts to undo the carve-outs, and Democrats refused to make Obamacare apply to the White House itself.”

 

Background information:

 

The provision in question stemmed from an amendment Grassley authored and for which he won Finance Committee approval in September 2009.  The Grassley amendment said that members of Congress and their staff must get their health insurance coverage from the exchanges that would be established in the health care overhaul.  This congressional coverage initiative built on many years of work by Senator Grassley to have Congress live under the laws it passes for the rest of the country.  In 1995, legislation authored by Grassley to apply 12 civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress for the first time.

 

The story in today’s New York Times reports that TV commercials being run on behalf of Democratic candidates for Congress assert that members of Congress who voted to repeal the 2010 health care law have voted to give themselves taxpayer-funded health care for life.”  Senator Grassley said his provision, even in the final form it took in the law that was enacted makes no changes to the employer contribution to federal employee health care coverage and no changes to federal retiree health care.

 

New York Times story:

 

Democrats Use Health Law to Assail Republicans

By ROBERT PEAR

Published: October 18, 2012

WASHINGTON — A little-noticed provision of the new health care law is causing big headaches for some members of Congress in this year’s elections. And it is likely to cause even bigger headaches for lawmakers next year.

 

The provision, written into the law at the behest of a Republican senator, says members of Congress must get their health benefits through new insurance exchanges being established in every state.

Republicans have voted repeatedly to repeal the whole law. Now, in a barrage of television ads, Democrats are roasting those Republicans, saying they voted to give themselves “taxpayer-funded health care for life.”

The accuracy of the commercials, judged even by the loose standards that often apply to political advertising, is open to question.

Democrats say the commercials are accurate. Under the law, they say, members of Congress would be removed from the federal program that provides health insurance to most federal employees and retirees. Repealing the law, they say, would restore that coverage.

Republicans say that the attacks are unfounded, and that the Democrats are misrepresenting the effect of the law on coverage for retired members of Congress.

In any event, the criticism, if it sticks, could be politically damaging. Lawmakers of both parties have often said their goal is to provide all Americans with health insurance as good as what Congress has.

In a typical ad, the campaign of Ann McLane Kuster, the Democratic candidate for Congress in the Second District of New Hampshire, says that Representative Charles Bass, the incumbent Republican, “voted to cut Medicare for you while voting himself taxpayer-funded health care for life.” In upstate New York, Dan Maffei, a Democrat, assails the Republican, Representative Ann Marie Buerkle, saying she tried to privatize Medicare while “voting herself a tax-subsidized health care plan that she will be eligible for even after she retires.”

Similar television advertisements have been run in California by Democrats trying to unseat Representatives Brian P. Bilbray and Mary Bono Mack, both Republicans.

In Michigan, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running an advertisement that says Representative Dan Benishek, a Republican, “voted to give members of Congress taxpayer-funded health care for life.”

In another commercial, the committee says that Representative Tom Latham, Republican of Iowa, “voted himself taxpayer-funded health care for life,” but “wanted to gut Medicare, basically do away with it,” for older Americans.

House Majority PAC, a leading Democratic “super PAC,” has run advertisements saying that Representative Chip Cravaack, a freshman Republican from Minnesota, “voted to give members of Congress taxpayer-subsidized health care for life,” even as he tried to make older Americans pay more for their health care.

In an interview, Mr. Cravaack said the attack was based on “a deceitful stretch of the imagination,” and he asked: “How can you possibly think that repealing Obamacare would provide me with health care for life? I do not understand the correlation.”

However, Andy Stone, a spokesman for House Majority PAC, defended the commercials.

“The ads show the hypocrisy of Republicans who want to protect their health insurance while eliminating protections for people with pre-existing conditions and for children who want to stay on their parents’ insurance to age 26,” Mr. Stone said.

Jesse F. Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said, “It’s no surprise Republicans don’t like us pointing out the truth — that their vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act would reinstate the perk of taxpayer-funded government health care for members of Congress.”

Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, proposed the original requirement for lawmakers to get coverage through insurance exchanges. He has long said that “Congress should live under the same laws it passes for the rest of the country.”

The television ads are based on two premises: that members of Congress now have taxpayer-financed coverage for life, and that the 2010 health care law will eliminate it.

The facts are more complicated than the ads.

Members of Congress and retired members are eligible for insurance coverage under the same system as other federal employees. This system, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, covers eight million federal workers, retirees and dependents.

The 2010 health care law says that the only health plans available to members of Congress, as a benefit of their employment, are health plans created under the law or offered through insurance exchanges.

The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, says this section of the law implies that members of Congress “will no longer be eligible to enroll” in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

That raises vexing questions for lawmakers. Under the program for federal employees, the government pays a hefty share of the premiums: 72 percent, on average. Will this money still be available to help pay premiums when members of Congress get coverage through the exchanges, starting in 2014?

The government contribution averages more than $10,000 a year for family coverage and more than $4,500 for individual coverage.

In writing the legislation, members of Congress apparently assumed that the federal contribution to their premiums would continue, but the law is silent on the question.

Though the law generally requires members of Congress and certain Congressional aides to get their coverage through insurance exchanges, it says nothing about retiree health benefits.

How the new law affects retiree benefits is unclear, say lawyers at the Congressional Research Service and at the Committee on House Administration, which is responsible for bills affecting lawmakers’ pay and benefits.

Federal employees can often keep their coverage in retirement if they have been continuously enrolled in the federal employees health program for five years immediately before retiring.

Without getting into the fine points of health policy, Democrats are unleashing more ads. One says that Representative Sean P. Duffy, Republican of Wisconsin, voted to “give Congress taxpayer-funded health care for life.”

Justin Richards, the manager of the Duffy campaign, said: “Sean Duffy doesn’t get health care for life, not even close. His health care is the same as any federal employee from the F.B.I. agent to the park ranger.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 19, 2012, on page A18 of The New York Times

 

Description of Grassley effort to apply health care law to Congress:

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

 

Grassley re-introduces bill to apply health care reforms

to White House and administration leaders, and equitably in Congress

 

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today renewed his effort to apply the health care reform law to the President, Vice President, cabinet members, top White House staff, and the congressional staff who worked for passage of the massive overhaul enacted in March 2010.

 

Previous legislative initiatives by Grassley to establish accountability in Congress and the administration were rebuffed, both in 2009 and 2010, by the Democratic Majority Leader in the Senate.  “As a result, the health care reforms driven by President Obama and Senator Reid do not apply to President Obama and top administration officials or to the powerful congressional leadership staff who helped to make the overhaul the law of the land,” Grassley said.  “The message to grassroots America is that health care reform is good enough for you, but not for us.”

 

Grassley said that now that a new Congress has started, Senate leaders have another chance to make things right and should act immediately to pass his Health Reform Accountability Act.  “Until the health care overhaul is repealed and replaced with reforms that have broad-based support, the majority leadership in the Senate and the administration ought to make sure they are required to live under the health care law they put on the books.”

 

Grassley started his accountability effort in September 2009, when the Finance Committee, where he served as Ranking Member, was acting on its reform proposal.  Committee members approved a Grassley amendment to have members of Congress and all congressional staff obtain their health insurance through the same health insurance exchanges where health plans for the general public would be available.  After the bill left committee and during the closed-door reworking of the legislation in the Senate Majority Leader’s office, Senate committee and leadership staffs were exempted from the requirement.

 

In December 2010, when the carve-out was discovered, Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn offered an amendment to restore the requirement for all congressional staff and also to statutorily require the President, the Vice President, top White House staff and cabinet members to get their health insurance through the newly created exchanges.  The amendment did not apply to federal employees in the civil service.  The Grassley-Coburn amendment was never brought up for a vote.  The legislative fix also was not included in the final manager’s amendment, controlled by the Senate Majority Leader, on Christmas Eve, when the Senate passed the legislation that ultimately became law.  Grassley made another attempt to have the special carve-out removed during Senate consideration of the health-care reconciliation bill in March 2010.  Again, he was rebuffed.  Grassley filed the same free-standing legislation introduced today immediately following final passage, but it has never been brought up by the Senate Majority Leader, who controls the calendar and Senate business.

 

Grassley said the motivation for his initiative is simple:  public officials who make the laws or lead efforts to have laws changed should live under those laws.  “It’s the same principle that motivated me to pursue legislation over 20 years ago to apply civil rights, labor and employment laws to Congress,” Grassley said.

 

That previous Grassley crusade met success in 1995, when President Clinton signed into law Grassley’s Congressional Accountability Act.  Before then, Congress had routinely exempted itself from major laws, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Veteran’s Employment and Reemployment Rights at Chapter 43 of Title 38 of the U.S. Code, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1989.  All 12 of those laws now apply to Congress, thanks to Grassley’s reform legislation.

 

Today, Grassley also is working to make sure Congress lives up to the same standards it imposes on others with legislation such as his Congressional Whistleblower Protection Act.

 

As far as the health care law, as it stands today, because of the amendment Grassley included in the Finance Committee bill, at least members of Congress and their personal office staffs will be required to obtain their health insurance coverage through the newly created health care exchanges, when the law takes full effect in 2014, instead of the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program.

 

In March 2010, the White House announced that the President planned to participate in the health insurance exchanges in 2014.  Grassley said at the time that the move effectively endorsed his legislation.  “I appreciate it, but the principle of living under the law shouldn’t be voluntary for political leaders.”

 

The companion bill to the legislation filed today by Grassley was introduced last week in the House of Representatives by Representative Michael Burgess of Texas.  It’s H.R.360.

 

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Quad City Health Initiative Elects New Board Member PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Nicole Carkner   
Friday, 19 October 2012 07:03
The Quad City Health Initiative (QCHI) is proud to announce that Dr. Joe Rives, vice president of Western
Illinois University Quad Cities and Planning, has been elected to serve on the QCHI Board.

"QCHI works to create a healthy community by developing cross-sector collaborative partnerships and
Joe's selection as a Board Member provides a critical link between our healthy communities work and the
higher education sector," says Denise Bulat, QCHI Board Chair. "Joe is known for his dedication to
community improvement and his collaborative spirit. His expertise in planning and fundraising will be a
tremendous asset to our Board."

Rives oversees Western's Quad Cities campus and University planning for both campuses. He joined
Western's administration in 2005 after serving at Illinois State University since 1990. Rives is the
University's point of contact for Quad Cities economic development issues; provides leadership for
University-wide planning; and is responsible for institutional accreditation for the Higher Learning
Commission-North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

"I'm honored to be asked to serve on this community board," Rives says. "Our community's vitality
depends upon securing the health and well-being of its community members. QCHI's collaborative
infrastructure sustains work across organizational and geographic boundaries. Together, we can make
great improvements in our community's health status and quality of life."

The Quad City Health Initiative is a community partnership working to create a healthy community. A 25-
member community Board that was established in 1999 oversees the organization. The Initiative seeks
to be our community’s recognized leader for creating collaborative action on health and abides by the
core values of commitment, collaboration and creativity. Major financial support of the Quad City Health
Initiative is currently provided by the generous direct and in-kind investments of Genesis Health System
and Trinity Regional Health System. In 2012, additional financial support is provided by St. Ambrose
University, KJWW and Midland Information Resources.

For more information, please call 563-421-2815 or visit our website at www.qchealthinitiative.org.

###

 
There's still time to support Breast Cancer Research PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Dunn Bros. Coffee   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 09:51
Breast Cancer Awareness Month
This October, as we partner with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, you can help us raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. 

Together we've already raised nearly $10,000 that will go to the important research the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is doing. Let's keep it up!

How can you help?
It's easy. Just stop in to your local Dunn Bros Coffee shop and help in these ways:
  • Start seeing pink! We'll be distributing bright pink cups starting October 1. Raise awareness with every Dunn Brothers drink you purchase in a hot to-go cup. Show it off and show your support.
  • New Dunn Sisters Blend coffee. We're donating $1 for every pound of our fabulous new Dunn Sisters Blend coffee sold in October. This coffee was blended specially for October Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is available only for a limited time. Available in-store or online.

  • Pick up a pink travel mug and raise awareness all year long. Dunn Bros Coffee is donating $1 from every featured pink travel mug sold in October. While supplies last. Learn More

  • Donate your 25¢ sustainability reward. This month only, we'll give you the option to donate your 25¢ reward for using a reusable mug to BCRF.

BCRF mission

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® is dedicated to preventing breast cancer and finding a cure in our lifetime by funding clinical and translational research worldwide.  For more information about BCRF, visit www.bcrfcure.org.


Find a Dunn Bros Location Near You

 
More Teens Turning to Plastic Surgery In Hopes of Making the Cut PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Richard Martin   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 09:49
Fortune 500 Consultant Offers Lasting Alternatives
to Going under the Knife

A generation ago, reconstructive procedures were reserved for the aging and the rich and famous.

Now, teenagers are routinely undergoing plastic surgery – roughly 90,000 procedures a year, according to ABC News. Fourteen-year-old Nadia Ilse made headlines recently for having surgery on her ears because her classmates bullied and teased her, calling her “Dumbo.” The $40,000 specialty operation was paid for by the charity Little Baby Face Foundation.

“Not every one of the 90,000 surgeries is the result of teasing or bullying, but it’s clear more teens are undergoing invasive, sometimes dangerous, procedures simply to feel they fit in,” says international social advocate Traci S. Campbell, author of The C.H.A.M.P. Within (www.traciscampbell.com). “Enough is enough! A far healthier alternative is to develop the character and confidence necessary to navigate adolescence with a respect for yourself – and others.”

Campbell, whose nonprofit C.H.A.M.P. Community Project supports at-risk teens and single-parent families, discusses tough “personal love” steps teens can take to foster the healthy self-image that will benefit them throughout their lives.

• Forget Hollywood – be your own personal celebrity: Young women are starving themselves to be grossly thin or they idolize celebrities, including the Kim Kardashians of the world. Ironically, the truth of the matter is that many in Hollywood have more personal issues and hang-ups than those of us in the real world. Why not create your own style and make your own mark? Style includes your attitude, and what you do!

• Go in before you go out: While it is great to look like a million bucks, if you feel like two cents, then the fashionable clothes and expensive makeup serve no purpose. Take time to talk to yourself (seriously, out loud!) to find out what you want to do, want to be, and WHY. Write it down and review it often. Then line up your daily activities and associations around your list. Not only will you feel like you are accomplishing something, you will begin to feel good about YOU and to see your own value. Then, take a trip to the mall to get that latest pair of leopard skin boots, or whatever is trendy at the moment. I am sure they will look a whole lot better on you.

• Get old-fashioned: In an age when fast-paced social media rule interactions, old-fashioned values are needed more than ever! Why? Because they benefit us. They protect us from the consequences of impulsive actions and bad decisions; cause us to place higher expectations on ourselves and our associations (especially those involving men); and they foster the strong core values, like honesty and integrity, that never go out of fashion.

• Embrace your higher power ... a LOT!: You can’t do it all by yourself! There is a sense of peace and confidence that comes when you take the time to pray/affirm, meditate and visualize your life. The focus and concentration, as well as repetitiveness of these actions, will energize you mentally and emotionally. It will also help you prevent future emotional “chains” by dealing with hurts and not sweeping them under the rug! Practice forgiveness to get rid of that old mental garbage; this is critical. And spend time daily to “exercise” your mind and spirit as well as your physical body to cultivate the image of yourself that you really want.

• Put other people first: To be the best woman you can be starts with being the best friend, parent, student and support for others. Real sexiness and attractiveness comes from the confidence of those who are willing to stand strong for a cause – one that benefits others. Spend time volunteering in your community. Seek opportunities to use your talents (and we ALL have a talent) to help or mentor another person, or a community.

About Traci S. Campbell

Traci S. Campbell has been an IT consultant for more than 15 years, working for high-profile corporate clients such as Sears, IBM and McDonald’s Corp. As an international social advocate and life coach, she focuses on helping clients overcome personal obstacles so they can achieve their goals. She is the creator of The C.H.A.M.P. Within program and founder of the national Beauty In/Beauty Out Tour. She provides services through her 501 (c) (3) organization, C.H.A.M.P. Community Project, which supports schools, rehab centers, shelters and other local and international programs for at-risk children and single-parent families. She can also be heard on Inside Out! Live, a radio show available online and on iTunes.

 
Pressing for Answers about Questionable Medical Malpractice Reform Grants PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 07:53

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

 

Grassley, Hatch, Smith Press for Answers about Questionable

Medical Malpractice Reform Grants

 

WASHINGTON -- Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith are continuing to press for answers from the Obama administration about its grant program that was sold to the American people as a means to study medical malpractice reform, but has instead diverted tens of millions of dollars to research, of which the usefulness has yet to be explained by the administration.

 

The members wrote to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, in April, and again today, asking questions about President Obama’s September 9, 2009 address to Congress where he announced an initiative to deal with the rising costs of health care associated with medical malpractice lawsuits.

 

The members wrote, “Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system…However, the AHRQ’s (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) description of the research being funded (through the President’s initiative) does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.”

 

The letters call attention to the fact that none of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and that it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious: as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.

 

The department’s response to the April 3 letter failed to answer the members’ questions, including basic, but important, questions such as how the projects will reduce frivolous lawsuits and reduce malpractice insurance premiums, how the projects will directly benefit American taxpayers, and how the projects will lower health care costs.

 

A copy of the text of both the April 3 and October 16 letters to Sebelius are below.  A signed copy of both letters can be found here.

 

 

October 16, 2012

 

Via Electronic Transmission

 

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary

Department of Health & Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

 

We write regarding the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) letter dated June 11, 2012 and received by our offices on September 27, 2012, after multiple inquiries.

 

The letter from the HHS was responding to our April 3, 2012 letter to you.  In our letter, we expressed our concerns with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants being funded by the HHS.

 

On September 9, 2009, President Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, directed you to move forward on an initiative aimed at reducing health care costs.  On June 11, 2010, pursuant to the President’s orders, the HHS, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), awarded $23.2 million to fund demonstration and planning projects.

Frivolous lawsuits and the high cost of malpractice insurance are dragging down our health care system.  The goal of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms is not to hinder meritorious lawsuits, but rather to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits, inflated awards and inflated attorneys’ fees.  However, the AHRQ’s description of the research being funded does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.

The President’s September 9, 2009 speech gave the clear impression that taxpayers’ monies would be spent, in significant part, on projects related to “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  Contrary to that clear impression, it appears that none of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.

 

We were concerned that these developments did not fulfill the President’s commitment to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  Consequently, we wrote to you on April 3 and asked several direct questions and made requests for documents.

 

After several follow up inquiries, we only recently received a response from the HHS.  The HHS’ response letter, however, ignores the vast majority of our questions, if not all of them, and did not include any documents.

 

Accordingly, we are attaching a copy of our April 3 letter and ask that you directly answer all of our questions and produce documents as appropriate.

 

The HHS’s response letter also raises new questions that we would like to have answered:

(A)             The June 11, 2010 press release by the AHRQ stated that the “grants [we]re part of the patient safety and medical liability initiative that President Obama announced during a September 9, 2009, address to a joint session of Congress.”[1] What is the exact source of the $23.2 million in funding for the demonstration and planning projects and the $2 million in funding for the JBA/RAND evaluation project?

(B)              Identify whether Congress expressly approved the demonstration, planning and evaluation projects as well as appropriated the funding for them.  If Congress did not expressly approve these projects and their funding, identify the authority for the HHS to initiate and fund these projects, without first receiving approval and appropriations from Congress.

We ask that you provide written answers and documents by October 29, 2012.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

________________________       ________________________

Charles E. Grassley                       Lamar Smith

Ranking Member                         Chairman

Senate Judiciary Committee                      House Judiciary Committee

 

 

 

 

________________________      

Orrin G. Hatch                         

Ranking Member                        

Senate Finance Committee

 

 

April 3, 2012

 

Via Electronic Transmission

 

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius

Secretary

Department of Health and Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

 

We are writing to express our concerns with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants being funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 

On September 9, 2009, President Obama, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on health care, directed you to move forward on an initiative aimed at reducing health care costs.  Specifically, he stated:

…, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs.  So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine.  I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues.  It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today. (Emphasis added).

On June 11, 2010, pursuant to the President’s orders, the HHS, through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), awarded $23.2 million to fund demonstration and planning projects.  The AHRQ’s press release confirmed that the “grants [we]re part of the patient safety and medical liability initiative that President Obama announced during a September 9, 2009, address to a joint session of Congress.”[2] Specifically, the AHRQ has funded seven demonstration grants for a total amount of $19.7 million and 13 planning grants for a total amount of $3.5 million.  The demonstration projects are scheduled to take three years to complete and the planning projects are scheduled to take one year to complete.  According to the AHRQ, the projects are supposed to allow States and health care systems to develop, implement and evaluate medical liability models that “(1) put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries; (2) foster better communication between doctors and their patients; (3) ensure that patients are compensated in a fair and timely manner for medical injuries, while also reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits; and (4) reduce liability premiums.”[3]

Frivolous lawsuits, the high cost of malpractice insurance and excessive damages awards are dragging down our health care system.

 

The goal of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms is not to hinder meritorious lawsuits, but rather to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits, inflated awards and inflated attorneys’ fees.  Generally speaking, traditional malpractice reforms seek practical solutions to combatting frivolous lawsuits, such as caps on punitive damages, caps on noneconomic damages and limits on the percentage of an award that can be taken by a plaintiff’s attorney under a contingency fee agreement.  Thus, traditional reforms are necessarily aimed at dealing with the medical system as it exists and influencing the behavior of lawyers and courts by altering legal parameters--substantive and procedural.  Correspondingly, research on traditional reforms should be aimed at assessing the effects of specific legal changes on claims, lawsuits, awards and settlements, either through mathematical models, simulated jury studies or real data.

 

However, the AHRQ’s description of the research being funded does not mention, much less emphasize, reforms to medical malpractice laws, as was clearly implied by the President’s speech.  Indeed, it does not appear that any of the entities that have received the $23.2 million in grants have the expertise necessary to examine the effects of changes in substantive legal standards and procedural rules on the rate of malpractice claims, lawsuits, and awards.

 

President Obama’s September 9, 2009 speech included a reference to “demonstration projects” considered during President George W. Bush’s administration.  The day after the President’s speech, Tevi Troy, who served as the Deputy Secretary of the HHS, during the Bush Administration, responded to President’s Obama’s statement.[4] Mr. Troy explained the nature of the demonstration projects considered during the Bush administration.  In particular, he explained the limited purpose of those projects and the fact that they would not solve the crisis created by frivolous lawsuits.  Mr. Troy’s article also made it clear that “reducing the incidence of costly and ineffective medical malpractice lawsuits was a high priority of the [Bush] administration.”

 

The President’s speech gave the clear impression that taxpayers’ monies would be spent, in significant part, on projects related to “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  Contrary to that clear impression, it appears that none of the $23.2 million awarded has

 

gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms.  In fact, it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious:  as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines.

 

We are concerned that these developments do not fulfill the President’s commitment to move forward on medical malpractice reform.  Accordingly, please respond to the following requests for information:

 

1.      Explain how the HHS’ spending $23.2 million on studying “nontraditional” liability reform fulfills the President’s promise that his administration would examine a “range of ideas,” including the “traditional” malpractice reforms noted above and advocated by Republican Members of Congress?

 

2.      Do you agree that the projects funded by the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants are not researching “traditional” malpractice reform, but rather are exploring “nontraditional liability reforms”?[5] If you disagree, explain the basis for your disagreement in detail.  Also, identify which projects are researching “traditional” malpractice reforms and how much from the $23.2 million in grants is being spent on studying “traditional” malpractice reforms.

 

3.      Do you agree that the AHRQ is not the most qualified agency to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If you disagree, explain in detail how the AHRQ is the most qualified agency within the federal government to undertake or oversee research related to “traditional” malpractice reforms.

 

4.      How, if at all, will the results of each of the 20 demonstration and planning projects directly help to reduce the incidence of frivolous lawsuits and reduce high malpractice insurance premiums, as represented by the AHRQ?  Also, if a project will have no direct impact on reducing frivolous lawsuits and insurance premiums expressly acknowledge that fact.

 

5.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects will directly benefit American taxpayers.  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of these projects, when will those benefits be seen?

 

6.      Explain in detail how the results of each of the 20 projects will directly contribute to lowering health care costs, as stated by the President?

 

7.      Describe in detail how the HHS and/or the AHRQ will utilize the information generated by each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects?

 

8.      Is each of the 20 Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning projects unique or are they similar to previous studies?  If any of the current projects are similar to previous studies, explain the HHS’s justification for funding that project or projects?

 

9.      When was it decided that the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants would fund research of “nontraditional liability reforms,” as opposed to “traditional” malpractice reforms?  Who made that decision?  If it was a group decision, identify all of the individuals who participated in the group.

 

10.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate (in any manner whatsoever) in the drafting of the requests for proposals issued in connection with the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of the individual’s participation.

 

11.  Did anyone other than an employee of the federal government participate in the selection of any of the recipients of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants?  If so, identify the individual(s) and the group he or she was representing.  Also, if applicable, set forth in detail the substance and nature of each individual’s participation.

 

12.  Is one of goals or purposes (official or unofficial) of the Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration and Planning grants to produce studies that will discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?

 

13.  Is the HHS or any other agency of the federal government currently conducting, participating in or funding research, the (official or unofficial) purpose of which is to discredit or counter “traditional” malpractice reforms?  If so, set forth the details of each such project, including who will conduct the research and who will oversee it.

 

14.  In addition to the $23.2 million being spent on the demonstration and planning projects, another component of the initiative ordered by President Obama is an evaluation project.  JBA/RAND was awarded $2 million for the evaluation project.  According to the AHRQ, the $2 million has been “allocated to evaluate the overall knowledge that is gained from this initiative.”[6]

 

(a)    Explain in detail the substance and goals of the evaluation project and explain why it is necessary.

 

(b)   Are salaried federal employees at the AHRQ or in another unit of the HHS capable of understanding and evaluating the results of the demonstration and planning projects?  If so, why weren’t they assigned the task of conducting the evaluation project or its equivalent?  If they are not capable, explain how the HHS and the AHRQ will be able to work with any of the information generated by the projects.

 

(c)    How, if at all, will the results of the evaluation project directly benefit American taxpayers?  If American taxpayers will benefit from the results of the evaluation project, when will those benefits be seen?

 

If the HHS and/or the AHRQ possess documents relating to the subject matter of any of the foregoing questions, provide copies of those documents.

 

We ask that you provide written answers and documents by May 3, 2012.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 

________________________       ________________________

Charles E. Grassley                       Lamar Smith

Ranking Member                         Chairman

Senate Judiciary Committee                      House Judiciary Committee

 

 

 

 

 

________________________      

Orrin G. Hatch                         

Ranking Member                        

Senate Finance Committee

 

 

1  AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/hhsliabawpr.htm).

2 AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/hhsliabawpr.htm).

3  Id.

4 Tevi Troy, “Med Mal Pal?,” Critical Condition, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE’S HEALTHCARE BLOG (Sept. 10, 2009)(available at  http://www.nationalreview.com/critical-condition/48345/med-mal-pal/tevi-troy).

5 See Allen Kachalia & Michelle M. Mello, New Directions in Medical Liability Reform, 364 N. ENGL. J. MED. 1564 (Apr. 2011) (available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr1012821) (acknowledging the definition of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and confirming that the AHRQ’s demonstration and planning projects are studying “nontraditional liability reforms.”).

6 Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ Commentary, “Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform: Putting the Patient First” (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/commentaries/comptsafty.htm). 

 





[1] AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/hhsliabawpr.htm).

 

[2] AHRQ Press Release, “HHS Announces Patient Safety and Medical Liability Demonstration Projects:

Funds Allocated to Develop, Implement, and Evaluate Patient Safety Approaches and Medical Liability Reform Models” (June 11, 2010) (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2010/hhsliabawpr.htm).

 

[3] Id.

[4] Tevi Troy, “Med Mal Pal?,” Critical Condition, National Review Online’s Healthcare Blog (Sept. 10, 2009)(available at  http://www.nationalreview.com/critical-condition/48345/med-mal-pal/tevi-troy).

[5] See Allen Kachalia & Michelle M. Mello, New Directions in Medical Liability Reform, 364 N. Engl. J. Med. 1564 (Apr. 2011) (available at http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMhpr1012821) (acknowledging the definition of “traditional” medical malpractice reforms and confirming that the AHRQ’s demonstration and planning projects are studying “nontraditional liability reforms.”).

[6] Carolyn M. Clancy, AHRQ Commentary, “Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform: Putting the Patient First” (available at http://www.ahrq.gov/news/commentaries/comptsafty.htm). 

 
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