"Where's the Republican plan?"
It's one of the red herrings that apologists for Obamacare pull out of their bag of clichéd talking points when pressed to justify Democrats' attempt to grab control of 18% of the nation's economy.
Well, here's a modest proposal. Rather than looking to Massachusetts or Tennessee for examples of health care reform, why not look to Texas?
The Lone Stare state has its problems, but in recent years it has made major progress in improving health care availability, especially in predominantly poor and minority regions. Being Texas, the solution wasn't budget-busting, either.
Their answer? They got rid of the lawyers.
Not literally. But they did take on that perennial pillar of the Democrat Party, the trial lawyers.
In an Op-Ed published in the San Francisco Examiner earlier this month, Texas Governor Perry points out that in 2003 the state implemented laws that shielded health care providers from trial lawyers "anxious to make a quick buck."
"We capped noneconomic damages at $250,000 per defendant, or up to $750,000 per incident, while placing no cap on more easily determined economic damages, such as lost wages or costs of medical care due to injury.
"We ended the practice of allowing baseless but expensive lawsuits to drag on indefinitely, requiring plaintiffs to provide expert witness reports to support their claims within four months of filing suit or drop the case...
"Changes were seen immediately, and continue to be felt. All major liability insurers cut their rates upon passage of our reforms, with most of those cuts ranging in the double-digits. More than 10 new insurance carriers entered the Texas market, increasing competition and further lowering costs.
"As a result, Texas doctors have seen their insurance rates decline by an average of 27 percent.
"The number of doctors applying to practice medicine in Texas has skyrocketed by 57 percent."
At a time when a debate rages over whether the U.S. has enough doctors, Texas has seen its number of doctors leap by about 15,000. And Perry points out that tort reform has brought service to critically underserved, predominantly minority and poor communities.
"The number of obstetricians practicing in rural Texas is up by 27 percent, and 12 counties that previously had no obstetricians now have at least one. The statistics show major gains in fields like orthopedic surgery, pediatrics, neurosurgery and emergency medicine.
The Rio Grande Valley has seen an 18 percent growth in applications to practice medicine, adding about 200 doctors to this critically underserved area."
According to state Representative Joe Nixon, many of Texas' news physicians have moved to rural or underserved areas, and "Texas, once listed as 47th worst state in the ratio of doctors per citizen, will soon be in the lower 30s and improving."
Perry says Texas tort reform has had other benefits to patients:
"And what about the money that used to go to defending all those frivolous lawsuits? You can find it in budgets for upgraded equipment, expanded emergency rooms, patient safety programs and improved primary and charity care."
Further, according to the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, tort reform has resulted in an improvement in the quality of health care in Texas, with the percentage of complaints about medical care actually going down.
Yet, despite the striking evidence of tort reform benefits in the nation's second most populous state, this simple, basic and essential component of health care reform is completely missing from all Democrat proposals.
According to opensecrets.org, Democrats received over $178,000,000 from lawyers' donations during the 2008 election cycle -- three times what they donated to Republicans. Over $43,000,000 of that went to the Obama campaign.
Forty-three million reasons why Obamacare doesn't include the one component of health care reform that has been proven to work: tort reform.
William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author