August 31, 2009

Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and John Kerry (D-MA) talked about the process of health care reform on Sunday :

STEPHANOPOULOS: These insurance reforms, you can't be denied health care if you're sick. You can't get thrown out if you're sick.

A lot of Democrats, Republicans say that maybe we should have this individual mandate, to require people to buy insurance, to couple that with reforms.

Bill Bradley points out today, I think it was in The New York Times, that, you know, maybe they should include some malpractice reform as well. Are they -- those three things the building blocks of a deal?

HATCH: Yes, they really are. You know, Democrats have been unwilling to take on the personal injury lawyers. And look, there are cases that really deserve huge rewards, huge judgments.

We've got to find some way of getting rid of the frivolous cases, and most of them are. Most of them are brought...

KERRY: And that's doable, most definitely.

HATCH: Yes, and that's doable. Most of them are brought to -- you know, to get the defense costs. They know that once they bring them, the insurance companies are going to have to pay their defense costs rather than take a chance at a runaway jury.

But it's not just that. It's the other elements you've been talking about too. Those are three very important...

Let's just wait one minute here. Bill Bradley? Although he has a reputation as a liberal's liberal, Bradley has never met a tax cut he didn't like. And when he starts talking about malpractice reform in exchange for healthcare reform, what he's talking about once again is ordinary people giving up another degree of security and protection against powerful forces to meet some politician's ideal of centrist compromise.

When approximately five percent of all doctors are responsible for 95% of all medical malpractice, how is that a legal problem? I'll accept limitations on malpractice awards when we have a national health care system that pays for every service someone needs to deal with with the outcome of bad medicine. Until then, I'll keep my torts, thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And then if you add some subsidies to that that move towards covering more people...

KERRY: Yes, which I think we have some -- actually, I think we have some flexibility on as to sort of the rate and manner in which you do that. So I think that there are ways to do this, George.

As a member of the Finance Committee, I've been part of this discussion, though many of us would like to see it broadened in some ways. I'd like -- I mean, you know, my question to Orrin and to others is, you know, who is the Republican? Who are the Republicans, plural, who are prepared to step up and do as Ted Kennedy would have done here?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You were part of the negotiations earlier this year but then stepped away. Are you ready to come back?

HATCH: Sure. I've always been ready to do that. But look, you talk about an individual mandate. The problem with an individual mandate is that the people who are really hurt the most are those on the lower end of the wage spectrum.

They either lose their jobs, a cutback in pay, or the company goes overseas. Once you start doing that -- because the theory behind that is that you've penalized the company if they don't provide insurance for their people by having them have it surcharged.

And look, let's just be honest about it, it's a very difficult thing to do. There are some ways we could do this, none – both sides...

KERRY: Actually, Orrin...

HATCH: Both sides are arguing for insurance reform. That's not the issue. The issue is, how do we put all of these elements together?

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