On CNBC today, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed that President Obama made health care reform “an entirely political program” when he “took tort reform off the table.” “How can you ask Republicans to be part of a bipartisan group” without discussing tort reform, asked Giuliani:
GIULIANI: I thought when President Obama took tort reform off the table, you know, doing something about the excessive cost for doctors being sued, he made it an entirely political program. I mean how can you ask Republicans to be part of a bipartisan group when you take tort reform, which is one of the major causes of expense in the health care system off the table? Shouldn’t that be part of, shouldn’t that be part of a whole re-ogranization of health care?
While it’s true that Obama told the American Medical Association last month that he’s “not advocating caps on malpractice awards,” its been reported that he told AMA representatives in private that it “should be considered as part of any health care overhaul.” Additionally, Time’s Karen Tumulty reported in May that Obama specifically put it “on the table” in negotiations with Republicans, but the GOP wasn’t willing to deal:
So, right there in the Cabinet Room, the President put a proposal on the table, according to two people who were present. Obama said he was willing to curb malpractice awards, a move long sought by Republicans that is certain to bring strong opposition from the trial lawyers who fund the Democratic Party.
What, he wanted to know, did the Republicans have to offer in return?
Nothing, it turned out. Republicans were unprepared to make any concessions, if they had any to make.
Additionally, Giuliani claims that medical malpractice lawsuits are “one of the major causes of expense in the health care system.” But in 2004, the CBO “pegged medical malpractice costs at 2 percent of U.S. health spending” and found that “’even significant reductions’ would do little to reduce the growth of health-care expenses.”
“Medical malpractice dollars are a red herring,” Harvard economist Amitabh Chandra told Bloomberg News last month. “No serious economist thinks that saving money in med mal is the way to improve productivity in the system. There’s so many other sources of inefficiency.”