Patient Safety Requires Available Specialists, Drugs and Devices

The Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform National Advisory Council (NAC) Subcommittee met yesterday in Washington, initiating the long, consultative process that will lead to demonstration projects that will allow Congress to exclude tort reform from any health care legislation because, hey, they’re working on it. Here’s the agenda and a fact sheet on the $25 million White House initiative.

Sherman “Tiger” Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, submitted a written statement to the advisory panel subcommittee, accmpanied by an ATRA news release, “ATRA to HHS: Surest Road to ‘Patient Safety’ is Access to Top Medical Specialists, Drugs and Devices.” Excerpt:

Washington, DC, October 26, 2009 — As a Department of Health and Human Services panel today convened a hearing to begin discussions of medical liability reform demonstration projects, American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce reminded policymakers that, “Without access to the best specialists and live-saving drugs and medical devices, much of the recent talk about medical errors and patient safety could quickly become academic.”

ATRA’s written testimony to HHS’s Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform National Advisory Council Subcommittee, which conducted today’s tightly controlled hearing here in Washington, “was the only means by which to express our views and it was quite limited in length,” Joyce noted. “An effective medical liability system should provide predictability and fairness, guided by the over-arching principle of equitably and promptly compensating those who are truly injured by medical negligence,” Joyce’s written statement began. “A balanced system also would help to promote access to health care, deter harmful practices, and reduce the cost of wasteful ‘defensive medicine.’ But in these areas, the current system comes up short.

If we tend to cynicism about the medical malpractice demonstration projects — and grants — it’s because President Obama has never asked that tort reform be included in reform legislation, and he’s ruled out caps on non-economic damages. In recent remarks to the National Association of Manufacturers, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did not mention the issue. And, as former Vermont Governor Dr. Howard Dean said, “The reason that tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers in addition to everybody else they were taking on, and that is the plain and simple truth.”

Take a look at the American Association of Justice’s lobbying in the 3rd Quarter on the issues of health care tort reform. They’re against it.

For all the skepticism this process warrents, comments by an experienced lawyer friend of ours remind us to keep paying attention. He notes that these demonstration projects need not necessarily be directed toward cost savings or the reduction of frivolous litigation. A group could apply for a grant and use the demonstration project to undermine court rulings or past reforms. So examine those grants carefully.

By the way, did anybody see any news coverage of yesterday’s meeting?

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Michael Kirsch, M.D says:

    This administration isn’t pursuing tort reform because they don’t believe in it. the legal system needs reform more than the medical profession does. It’s wasting billions of dollars on defensive medicine, which patients don’t need. It tortures innocent physicians. It misses most cases of actual medical negligence. $25 million for ‘pilot projects’ is a joke. See

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