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Liability Reform Prognosis Improving

January 28, 2011
10:23 am

obama-sotu-getty-1-25-11-slideMedical liability reform is one of those causes that, up to now, has seemed a political impossibility at the federal level.  Even in years when Republicans controlled both the U.S. Senate and House, tort reform advocates couldn’t muster sufficient votes to get legislation passed.  A number of states have enacted reform measures, but Congress – encouraged by strong lobbying from the nation’s trial attorneys – has stubbornly refused to rein in even the most meritless lawsuits.

Now, though, we’re seeing a number of actions taking place that indicate there may be an opening to get something done on liability reform.  Among them:

•      President Obama made it a point to mention medical liability reform in his State of the Union speech.

•     The President’s deficit reduction commission has cited comprehensive liability reform as a recommended action to contain healthcare costs.

•      Medical liability reform legislation has just been introduced in the House of Representatives, and it has bipartisan sponsorship.

•     There is increasing interest in innovative measures such as tying liability protections to usage of health information technology and evidence-based medicine.

There are compelling reasons for Congress to move on this issue.  We have to be concerned about having a sufficient supply of physicians to serve an insured patient population that will increase as a result of health reform.  In many states, the liability climate forces physicians into early retirement.  We’re concerned about making our healthcare system more cost efficient, and yet the current liability system forces the expenditure of dollars in ways that don’t benefit patients.  President Obama’s right.  It’s time to make progress on this issue.

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