The new Senate GOP jobs plan released yesterday by Senators John McCain and Rand Paul might spur economic growth if enacted, but it has one enormous and extremely serious flaw. It explicitly includes a section titled, “Medical Malpractice Reform (S. 197 – The Medical Care Access Protection Act),” abbreviated as the “MCAP Act.” That bill, introduced in January by Republican Senators, is very similar to H.R. 5, the House Republicans’ bill to impose federal limits on health care-related lawsuits, about which I’ve written often here. That bill has been frozen in the House, thanks to the Constitutional and political objections of many House Republicans. By referring to S. 197, the Senate GOP jobs plan would enact many of the goals set forth in H.R. 5.
For starters, the introduction in the MCAP Act states that “health care and insurance industries are industries affecting interstate commerce and the health care liability litigation systems existing throughout the United States are activities that affect interstate commerce.” So the Senate GOP would continue to accept the expansion of the reach of the Commerce Clause begun under Wickard v Filburn, the Supreme Court decision condemned by conservative legal experts such as Randy Barnett and Rob Natelson and by Tea Party-side politicians such as Sen. Paul. That expanded scope reached its most extreme in the enactment of ObamaCare. Professors Barnett, Natelson, and other conservative experts point out that neither “health care” nor “tort law” are among the enumerated powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, and that expansion of federal law into those areas violates the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution.
The MCAP Act crushes each state’s right to manage its own civil justice system with respect to any lawsuit related to health care (i.e., providers and insurance companies). It imposes, for the first time in American history, federal limits on certain damages to be awarded in a health care-related lawsuit filed in either federal or state court. It mandates a standard for the award of punitive damages in any health care-related lawsuit filed in any court in America. It establishes, in federal law, a rule to determine the proportionate fault of each party in any federal and state court hearing a health care-related lawsuit. In doing all this, the act, included in the Senate GOP jobs plan, forces a one-size fits-all legal system for these lawsuits on the states. It also abridges our right to a civil jury trial, protected in the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution and beloved by our Founding Fathers.
The MCAP Act explicitly limits an attorney’s fees to a decreasing percentage, based on the increasing value of the amount awarded. Here’s the scale set in the bill:
(1) 40% of the first $50,000 recovered in the lawsuit;
(2) 1/3 of the next $50,000 recovered;
(3) 25% of the next $500,000 recovered; and
(4) 15% of the amount of the recovery in excess of $600,000.
So the bill imposes federal wage controls on just one industry, lawyers who charge contingent fees, regardless of the amounts normally charged by an attorney in the normal course of his business. And the bill lets federal judges cut the contingent fees to be paid for any reason, with no real limit on a judge’s authority. No other profession in America – certainly not the medical profession – face a federal law mandating a specific wage scale. That is outright communism. And the bill changes other legal standards and mandates them across every courtroom hearing any health care-related lawsuit in America.
The House equivalent of the MCAP Act was roundly condemned by Professors Barnett, Natelson, and other conservative legal experts, including two who are highly critical of trial lawyers. All stated that a federal law limiting health care-related lawsuits violates the Constitution and subsumes states’ rights. Professor Barnett, one of the co-counsels in the anti-ObamaCare lawsuit which will probably be heard by the Supreme Court, called Republican backers of H.R. 5 “fair-weather federalists.” The Senate GOP intentionally ignored their warnings and endorsed a sweeping takeover of state health care and tort law and state courtrooms, relying on the same excessive interpretation of the Commerce Clause relied upon by Democrats in enacting ObamaCare.
But it gets worse. This portion of the Senate GOP jobs plan not only grants special legal protection to one industry above all others, but it benefits those medical associations which have endorsed and heavily lobbied for the enactment and implementation of ObamaCare.
That’s right: the Senate GOP caucus, including Rand Paul, is explicitly rewarding the AMA and those medical associations which were the co-conspirators in the enactment of ObamaCare, with its communist individual mandate to buy health insurance. Our Republican Senators are abandoning states’ rights and our right to seek a civil jury trial to protect the doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies who pushed for ObamaCare with the promise of millions of forced patients. They get special legal protection that they don’t deserve and benefiting no other industry or group in America.
We should be stunned, disappointed and angry that Senate Republicans, especially those Members supposedly pledging allegiance to the Tenth Amendment, trashed our rights and the Constitution to help ObamaCare’s backers. We should demand that they abandon that section of the jobs plan and pledge that it will never become law.