House Republicans Push Health Care Agenda

February 15, 2011

Republican leadership in the House of Representatives continues to fulfill campaign promises on health care reform, including attacking funding for the new health care law, holding oversight hearings, and marking-up replacement legislation.

House Republicans have used the expiring continuing resolution and pending legislation to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year to inject funding cuts to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). However, efforts by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to defund the law have met procedural barriers that prevent appropriation legislation from changing policy.

Nevertheless, with President Obama’s budget proposal delivered to Capitol Hill this week, lawmakers will reassess budget opportunities to alter the health care law as they develop their own budget blueprint.   Meanwhile, as the continuing resolution and budget debate advance, the Republican controlled House and its committees are pushing forward with oversight and replacement legislation for PPACA.

Several House committees have held oversight hearings, namely the Education and Workforce hearing Feb. 9 on the impact of PPACA on employers, employees and the workforce. Moreover, House efforts to repeal the onerous 1099 provision in PPACA have picked up steam. The House Small Business Committee held ahearing Feb. 9 on the issue while the Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a mark-up for Feb. 17.

Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee has held a hearing and several hours of debate to mark-up comprehensive medical malpractice legislation called the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare (HEALTH) Act (H.R. 5). The bill would cap noneconomic damages at $250,000 and includes a fair share rule, by which damages are allocated fairly, in direct proportion to fault.  It also would place sliding scale limits on the contingency fees lawyers can charge and establish guidelines for punitive damages awards not to exceed the greater of $250,000 or twice economic damages.  The bill also sets a statute of limitations of three years after the date of manifestation of injury or one year after the claimant discovers the injury, with certain exceptions. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S. 218).

NSBA supports a comprehensive approach to tort reform that embraces health courts, limits medical malpractice awards, and subsequently reduces the phenomenon of defensive medicine that results in higher health care costs and inflated health care premiums for small businesses, their employees, and their families.

NSBA will continue to monitor health care reform initiatives in Congress and elsewhere to ensure progress is made to benefit small business owners, their employees, and their families. Stay tuned to NSBA’s Health Reform Today and Tomorrow Web site for more news and information as it is made available.