Breaking: Senate Finance Committee defeats public-option amendment

posted at 4:25 pm on September 29, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

The Senate Finance Committee voted to defeat an amendment that would have added a public option to the Max Baucus plan for a health-care system overhaul, 15-8, in a vote that split Democrats and unified Republicans.  It presents a victory for Baucus but a setback for the Obama administration, which insisted on getting a public option in a speech to Congress three weeks ago:

Liberal Democrats failed Tuesday to inject a government-run insurance option into sweeping health care legislation taking shape in the Senate Finance Committee, despite widespread accusations that private insurers routinely deny coverage in pursuit of higher profits.

The 15-8 rejection marked a victory for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, who is hoping to push his middle-of-the-road measure through the panel by week’s end. It also kept alive the possibility that at least one Republican may yet swing behind the overhaul, a key goal of both Baucus and the White House.

“My job is to put together a bill that gets to 60 votes” in the full Senate, the Montana Democrat said shortly before he joined a majority on the committee in opposing the provision. “No one shows me how to get to 60 votes with a public option,” the term used to describe a new government role in health care. It takes 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to overcome delaying actions that Republicans may attempt.

Undeterred, supporters of a new role for government in U.S. health coverage immediately launched a new attempt to prevail.

Jay Rockefeller attempted to prevail on the vote by calling the insurance industry “rapacious,” immediately after saying that he “hate[d] to use the term.”  Perhaps Rockefeller might want to check the dictionary for its definition.  The word means “ravenous,” excessively grasping or covetous,” and “living on prey” — a strange definition of an industry that makes a meager 3.3% average profit margin.  In contrast, the legal profession averages about 14.3% profit margin, and yet the Democrats seem completely unwilling to tackle tort reform, even as part of a health-care system overhaul.

This won’t be the last attempt to attach a public option to the bill, but the rest will probably have as much success.  It’s far more likely to get added into a conference report when both chambers pass their versions of ObamaCare, and it’s just as likely that Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer offered this as a distraction from that effort.


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I just finished a trial where a doctor in a hurry to catch a plane punctured a sheath while performing an angioplasty, causing massive internal bleeding. The doctor never noticed the puncture even though the plastic of the sheath could never be mistaked for human tissue. He never handed off the patient to another doctor and even though he learned of the complication, he was too busy packing his bags to go down the hall to remove the sheath and stop the bleeding. All that was necessary was to remove the sheath and apply pressure and this patient would have lived. But that did not happen. Two hours later, the patient was in hemmoraggic shock and his organs were shutting down. He died. He was a father of two. He had worked the same job for twenty years. He and his wife had been married for over thirty years and had been high school sweethearts. A wonderful loving couple who had just saved up money to go on a cruise. The widow lost her best friend, her lover, everything she expected out of life, all because a doctor was too busy to go down the hall to see his patient.

Since this was in California, and California has MICRA — a strict form of tort reform in effect since the 70′s — her noneconomic damages were capped at $250,000. He killed her husband and damages were capped at a figure that was set over 30 years ago and has not been adjusted for inflation.

Republicans are always screaming for tort reform, yet they never seem to mention that California has had malpractice award caps forever and California certainly does not have a shortage of lawyers, and malpractice rates are still going through the roof, just like every where else. The only difference is that when there is a true victim of egregious medical negligence, their damages as determined by the venerated American jury system are arbitrarily lopped off at $250,000.

But go ahead tell a few more lawyer jokes and complain that the Dems are just stooges for the trial lawyers. But after your laugh, think about who you are being a stooge for…

tommylotto on September 29, 2009 at 7:02 PM

tommylotto on September 29, 2009 at 7:02 PM

I thought only pain and suffering is capped at $250,000 and there is no limit to other damages such as future wages.

If that’s the case, I’m not sure what the problem is. I don’t see how higher awards for pain and suffering are reasonable. In fact, $250,000 for pain and suffering seems a bit high. Also, if the doctor killed a man through gross negligence isn’t it possible to charge him with homicide?

Also, accidents do happen. It seems cash payouts for medically related deaths is the realm of life insurance, isn’t it?

When I picture malpractice lawyers, I picture John Edwards and BS cerebral palsy cases. Frankly shooting that man into the sun would be too kind.

jhffmn on September 29, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Frankly shooting that man into the sun would be too kind.

jhffmn on September 29, 2009 at 7:46 PM

I’m going to have to revise my position on Climate Change legislation now. Apparently, there are certain carbon offsets that I’d be willing to pay extra for.

Who knew?

VekTor on September 29, 2009 at 8:17 PM

We need another march, keep the pressure up. After spending 2 weeks in the UK I have to laugh, they are now thinking we are lead by a bunch of idiots…of course I agree.

No Health care reform NO Tax and Cap reform, the only reform we need is in DC!

Teleycoman on September 29, 2009 at 8:49 PM

The problem is, they don’t want the Baucus plan no matter what it has in it. They want’ the plan written by Bill Ayers, or whatever Communist(s) drafted it.

Dr. ZhivBlago on September 29, 2009 at 9:12 PM

jhffmn on September 29, 2009 at 7:46 PM

As I stated in my post the “noneconomic damages” are capped at $250,000. Economic damages are not. Thus, an unloved bond traders life is worth much more than a beloved machinist, and if you are unemployed your life is worthless no matter how much someone loves you. Also, the cases handled by Edwards were for kids that would need life long medical care and would never be employable. Those cases have huge economic (as oppose to non-economic) damages and would not be capped by any proposed verdict cap, which only seeks to limit noneconomic damages.

Pain and suffering are not recoverable in a wrongful death action. Rather you can recover damages for the lost love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support. Why should this be capped. Shouldn’t it be determined by the facts as determined by a jury of our peers — or are you a socialist who wants to does not trust the American people to make the right decision and think some elite should engineer the results?

Any why stop with doctors? If the husband had been killed by a negligent truck driver or fork lift operator the noneconomic damages may have been 2.5 million. But he was killed by a negligent doctor. So, his damages are one tenth that.

Your solution to socialized medicine is socialized tort law. No thanks! Keep your hands off of my common law jury system.

tommylotto on September 29, 2009 at 9:51 PM

Can’t buy me lo-ove; everybody tells me so.

And I never quite saw how money could be comparable to the joy one’s spouse gives. It’s truly apples and oranges. If you could use a jury trial to bring the spouse back to life, then I would go for that. If the doctor could do prison time for manslaughter, I would go for that, too.

In my back-water mind, lawyers, either by inclination or training, turn out to be hopelessly ethically crippled and do what they can professionally to create disputes so they can make money settling them.

So any lawyer who argues that cash awards will alleviate the pain of a lost spouse, is disingenuous: would he rather the award be paid in cash or joy?! Cash, of course.

flicker on September 29, 2009 at 11:59 PM

Come on people. This dance is called political coverage. Public option fails in a highly covered Senate committee hearing and passes in the House. The bill finally moves to Conference between the House and the Senate and, oh my…. lo and behold the Public option provision makes it into the final compromise and voila, political theater at its best. Please do not be fooled by this Senate canard.

stuartm650 on September 30, 2009 at 12:24 AM

How many ways can our own government deceive us? John Kerry says: Look, this 72-hour posting period is just a delaying tactic. The language is ‘legalistic’ (I think he means ‘legal’) and, come on, admit it, we don’t read the bills anyway.

So why are so many Congressmen lawyers if they can’t read and understand the bills. Would any of them sign a mortgage or sign up for a health insurance plan without reading the papers? Yet they expect us to acccept platitudes for laws.

And what about loop-holes? If you don’t read the bills, you can’t find and close the loop-holes. And more generally, you can’t vote on a bill for which you have a good idea of the unintended consequences. And you can’t say with any authority that it should withstand court challenges.

Is anyone in charge elected anymore?

flicker on September 30, 2009 at 1:11 AM

Any why stop with doctors? If the husband had been killed by a negligent truck driver or fork lift operator the noneconomic damages may have been 2.5 million. But he was killed by a negligent doctor. So, his damages are one tenth that.
.
Your solution to socialized medicine is socialized tort law. No thanks! Keep your hands off of my common law jury system.
.
tommylotto on September 29, 2009 at 9:51 PM

TL, thanks for making me rethink my position. You’ve made a compelling argument. Good job.

NightmareOnKStreet on September 30, 2009 at 1:23 AM

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