Another TARP: Trial Attorney Relief Program

The SE Texas Record Nov. 7, 2009, 1:10am

The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was touted as a solution to the subprime mortgage crisis and a way to stabilize our economy.

However, for some it soon devolved into a slush fund, and some of the "troubled assets" receiving "relief" were revealed to be cronies of the congressmen dishing out the dough.

The health care reform bill now being ramrodded through Congress is another TARP: Trial Attorney Relief Program.

It, too, is being touted as a solution to an alleged crisis. Once again, however, among the beneficiaries are not the American people, but more cronies of the congressmen writing the rules.

Despite abundant evidence that frivolous medical malpractice suits contribute mightily to the rising cost of health care, the bill touted by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does nothing to deter such suits. In fact, it seeks to insulate them from reform.

Section 2531 of the 1,990-page bill authorizes incentive payments to states enacting "an alternative medical liability law" to prevent disputes or facilitate their "fair resolution" – provided that law does not "limit attorneys' fees or impose caps on damages."

In other words, the one measure most likely to get rising health care costs under control is strictly prohibited.

This is not idle speculation. Here in Texas, as well as in Missouri, Mississippi and other states, medical tort reform has been enacted and the people have reaped its benefits. By limiting attorneys' fees and capping damage awards, these states have reduced the need for doctors to practice defensive medicine and carry expensive insurance policies. The number of doctors serving the citizens of these states has increased, and the cost of the medical care they provide has gone down.

It's an amazing success story. Instead of encouraging other states to follow suit and reap the same benefits, however, the Pelosi bill does just the opposite.

Pelosi's Trial Attorney Relief Program increases the power of government, hamstrings the free market, restricts the choices of American consumers and perpetuates the enrichment of trial attorneys at the expense of the public. It's a consumer trap, not a TARP, and it needs to be discarded.

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