A Passing Reference to Medical Liability Reform

By February 22, 2010Briefly Legal, Health Care

The President’s new health care proposal posted today at 10 a.m. has this to say about medical liability issues. It’s in Title VI, Transparency and Program Integrity.

And it gives states flexibility to propose tort reforms that address several criteria, including reducing health care errors, enhancing patient safety, encouraging efficient resolution of disputes, and improving access to liability insurance.

States get flexibility to propose tort reforms. Thanks, federal government!

Of course, what’s missing from that list is “reduce health care costs.”

It appears the President is counting on the $20 million demonstration grant program for state initiatives to carry the weight. As we argued in a post at the Point of Law legal blog, the program’s rules discourage medical liability reform that seeks to limit costs or the expensive practice of defensive medicine.

UPDATE (1 p.m.): Jonathan Cohn, a senior editor at The New Republic, wrote a column today at Kaiser Health News anticipating the President’s proposal, addressing politics and tort reform. From “Malpractice Reform: A Test Case for Bipartisanship At The Health Summit“:

Ever since President Barack Obama announced he’d be having a bipartisan meeting to talk about health care reform, Republicans have been denouncing it as a charade. He’s not really interested in their ideas, they say. And he doesn’t really want their support.

But is the problem that Obama won’t listen to the Republicans–or that the Republicans won’t listen to Obama? One way to answer that question is to watch what happens at Thursday’s health ‘summit’ meeting if discussion turns to medical malpractice reform.

Maybe the lack of any serious tort reform in the President’s plan actually represents a sophisticated strategy at work, setting the stage so the President can make a high-profile concession to the Republicans at the Blair House event. Yeah, maybe that’s it.

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