SOTU: Medical Malpractice Reform

In his State of the Union address last night President Obama mentioned a key issue for property/casualty insurers: medical malpractice reform.

I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down [healthcare] costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year – medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.†

President Obama’s comments follow landmark healthcare reform that failed to consider malpractice reform.

So what are we to make of this latest call?

Fortunately a number of commentators and bloggers have done the analysis. Here’s their take on the matter:

Over at Forbes Health Dollars blog, David Whelan says the President’s endorsement of malpractice reform warrants skepticism and offers some circumstantial evidence to support his view. His conclusion is that we shouldn’t get too excited just yet.

The Fact Checker at the Washington Post makes the point that President Obama favors certain ways of trying to lower costs related to malpractice, such as state incentives aimed at curbing lawsuits – rather than federal damage caps that Republicans favor.

Meanwhile, The Hill’s Healthwatch blog reports that senior Senate Democrats are highly skeptical of the President’s call for medical malpractice reform. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is quoted saying he would only support such reform if it was part of broader legislation that included other fixes such as a controversial proposal to repeal insurers’ exemption from federal antitrust rules.

We should mention that numerous studies have shown that tort reforms, particularly caps on non-economic damages, are a key contributor to lowering health care costs.

Check out the I.I.I. backgrounder on medical malpractice.

2 thoughts on “SOTU: Medical Malpractice Reform”

  1. This is an important topic and appreciate the analysis. I don’t think there will be any national tort reform. There are too many opinions from people in high places. Tort reform around the country currently means putting caps on the amount of damages a patient can receive. This is effective in slowing down the number of frivolous lawsuits and reducing medical malpractice insurance premiums, but only creates another problem. Many patients are legitimately injured and need compensation much greater than what the cap will allow. Tort reform of some kind is desperately needed but capping damages is not the way to go. I also think it will be hard to get past the unconstitutionality of limiting jury awards. http://www.equotemd/blog

    -Mohammad Gupta

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