Mark's Weekly Update - 10.29.19

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Washington, October 29, 2019 | comments

Protecting Our Veterans from Medical Malpractice

Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and they deserve access to the best medical care. Sadly, I have heard countless stories from veterans who received inadequate care from independent VA contractors and do not have access to the proper information or legal resources following medical malpractice. This is exactly why I introduced H.R.3813, the Brian Tally VA Medical Care and Liability Improvement Act.

The bill is inspired by the story of former Sgt. Brian Tally, a Marine Corps veteran who received a nearly fatal misdiagnosis for what was ultimately a staph infection in his spine—leaving him all but physically debilitated and unable to work. Given it was a textbook case of medical malpractice, Tally should have been able to receive damages for the misdiagnosis. After spending months pursuing the case, however, Tally was notified at the 11th hour that because his misdiagnosis came from an independent contractor through the VA, he had to sue the provider in state court under the tight restrictions of a one-year statute of limitations that had already passed. Since the contractor was not technically a VA employee, Tally was left without any options.

The bill makes critical changes to current law by requiring the VA to notify any veteran making a malpractice claim of both their care provider’s employment status and their options for a malpractice claim under their individual state law in 30 days or less. If the VA fails to provide this information within 30 days, the agency becomes liable and can be sued in federal court. It also places tighter restrictions on contractors working through the VA—creating a new penalty where a contractor is banned from working with the VA if they are found liable in 3 medical malpractice incidents over a five-year window. Ultimately, the bill aims to provide veterans the information they need and increase accountability for both the VA and the private contractors they work with. You can read more about my work for veterans here.

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Meeting with Brian Tally (Photo by John Steelman)

Holding the VA Accountable

Last week, I sent a letter to the VA Inspector General alongside Representative Patrick McHenry following the release of a report by the VA Office of Inspector General about the Charles George VA Medical Center’s negligent hiring practice of a faulty radiologist. I am deeply concerned by the report of the radiologist who was not qualified to properly read patients’ radiology scans and the facility managers who did not take the appropriate steps to correct this issue. I will always fight for our veterans in Western North Carolina that rely on the Charles George Medical Center in Asheville. If you are interested, you may find a copy of the letter here.

Honoring My Friend Elijah Cummings

As many of you know, Chairman Elijah Cummings passed away on October 17, 2019, after a long battle with several health challenges. Over the years Chairman Cummings and I spent long hours working together on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, developing a friendship and sharing a common desire to work across the aisle. Elijah was an incredible friend and I will miss him dearly. My prayers go out to the Cummings family as they mourn this tremendous loss.


I delivered remarks at Chairman Cummings’ ceremony in the U.S. Capitol building, speaking about the man of character he was and the important legacy he leaves behind. You may watch my remarks here.

 

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My remarks at Rep. Cummings’ Lying in State Ceremony (Photo by Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Standing Up for President Trump

House Democrats continue to hold closed door meetings about the impeachment of our duly-elected President, Donald J. Trump. The American people deserve full transparency during this process.

The Left’s motivations have been concerning long before this unnecessary impeachment inquiry began. For more than two years, Chairman Schiff has been spreading the baseless notion that President Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election. As then-Ranking Member, he escalated these claims by using the Steele dossier and false allegations, saying repeatedly he had “more than circumstantial evidence of collusion with Russia” during a March 2017 interview. Following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report and testimony before Congress, it was apparent Schiff’s statements were not true and misleading to the American people.

Not only that, Chairman Schiff also lied during a nationally televised interview by saying, “We have not spoken directly with the whistleblower” regarding the whistleblower complaint concerning President Trump’s phone conversations with the Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. Yet, according to the New York Times, Chairman Schiff had contact with the whistleblower prior to filing his formal complaint on August 12, 2019, which was not disclosed to the rest of the House Committee on Intelligence. This seriously discredits the integrity of this impeachment inquiry being led by Schiff.

As Chairman Schiff and House Democrats continue to hold secret, closed door meetings and refuse to release transcripts from key witnesses in their impeachment inquiry, it was vital to send a clear message of distrust to Chairman Schiff and Speaker Pelosi. As such, I joined my Republican colleagues in forcing a vote on a resolution to condemn and censure Adam Schiff. Every House Democrat voted against this resolution to hold Schiff accountable and bring transparency to the impeachment process.

The American people do not want endless, ongoing news stories about collusion. They are fed up with these investigations and a Congress, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, that is doing nothing. It is past time we in Washington get to work on issues of critical importance, such as protecting our border, providing affordable healthcare, and enacting policies that continue to grow the economy and create more jobs.

I will continue to stand up for President Donald Trump and push back against these secretive efforts of Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff to take down the President.

You may find my interview about impeachment transparency with the Daily Caller here.

 

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Interview with the Daily Caller

Letter to Secretary Azar on Aborted Fetal Tissue for Experiments

I applaud President Trump’s efforts to protect the unborn. Under his leadership, the Department of Health and Human Services has rolled back pro-abortion policies, cut federal Title X funding to Planned Parenthood facilities where abortions were taking place, and ended fetal tissue research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Unfortunately, some loopholes still exist that allow previously funded studies to continue.

Sadly, it has been reported that in one of these studies, a gruesome practice took place to plant fetal organs into mice for experimentation. The abhorrent use of aborted children for research further incentivizes late-term abortions and it must be stopped immediately. Nearly 70 of my colleagues in Congress and I sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar inquiring about these ongoing research projects and the scope of this practice.

You can read more about this letter from CBN News here and see a copy of the letter here.

Drug Pricing

I am grateful for the President and Secretary Azar’s efforts to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and expand access to life saving medicine for all Americans. Last week, I sent a letter to Secretary Azar to urge him to direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish a shared savings program for biosimilar prescription drugs in the Medicare Program. The shared savings program offers providers and suppliers an opportunity to work with CMS to find savings by better coordinating care and cutting waste to invest back into patients.

Biosimilars are the cheaper, generic versions of lifesaving drugs like those for rheumatoid arthritis and insulin. Biosimilars are similar to generics as they are an affordable option—generics account for 90% of drugs dispensed by Medicare, but only 23% of spending. If the biosimilar market is opened, it can unlock further accessibility for patients to affordable drugs. This is an important step to achieving drug affordability for seniors and patients. You may read the letter here.
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