GOP Calls Tort Reform A "Government Takeover" Of Health Care

February 26, 2010 1:20 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

When it comes to tort reform, Republicans actually want the federal government to be more involved than Democrats do.

At yesterday's bipartisan health care summit, President Obama criticized Republicans for relying on misleading talking points to attack his reform proposal.  Specifically, the president challenged the characterization of his plan as a "government takeover," even after the government-run plan was removed.  "There were criticisms about the public option," Obama said in his closing statement.  "That's when supposedly there was going to be a government takeover of health care.  And even after the public option wasn't available, we still hear the same rhetoric."

Last night, Republicans responded with a blog post titled "159 Ways the Senate Bill Is a Government Takeover of Health Care," which lists all of the "new boards, bureaucracies, and programs" created in the bill.  The main takeaway is that, according to Republicans, any government involvement at all constitutes a "takeover." Buried in the list, however, is one program Republicans would be expected to support:

148. Demonstration program to explore alternatives to tort litigation (Section 10607, p. 2369)

Of course, tort reform is a key plank in the GOP's approach to health care reform.  During the summit, for example, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) falsely stated that medical malpractice lawsuits are the "biggest" driver of health care costs.   

Ironically, the conflict over tort reform is that Republicans want the federal government to be more involved than Democrats do.  The Senate bill would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award grants to states to develop alternatives to current tort litigation. Meanwhile, Republicans want to implement federal caps -- limits set by officials in Washington -- on damages victims can receive in medical malpractice lawsuits.