KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Republicans: Malpractice Reform Demonstration Projects Insufficient

The Associated Press: "In his Wednesday speech and again in (a CBS "60 Minutes" interview), the president signaled he was open to so-called tort reform. Under current practice, doctors and hospitals must pay huge amounts to insure themselves against malpractice lawsuits by patients seeking large court-ordered settlements for poor treatment. … 'I would be willing to ... consider any ideas out there that would actually work in terms of reducing costs, improving the quality of patient care,' Obama said in the Sunday interview, which was taped Friday" (Hurst, 9/14).

The Wall Street Journal: "A central issue in the debate is whether to impose caps on monetary payments awarded in medical malpractice suits. There is broad support among Republicans for such caps, but Democrats have long opposed them" (Davis, 9/13).

The Salt Lake Tribune quotes Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "Finally, [Obama] is acknowledging the problem and taking some initial steps. But ultimately, it seemed more like lip service than a real commitment." The paper continues: "The president clearly intended his comments about malpractice reform to be an olive branch for the GOP and an indication that even if few Republicans end up voting for his broad reform proposal, he at least made some attempt to include their ideas. … Officials at Health and Human Services say they will provide specifics on how much money will go to ... pilot projects and/or how states will access that cash within the month, but the White House has already given some indication of what projects they would like to see funded. One idea is pre-litigation screening, where patients would have to present their claims to a panel of experts before going to court" (Canham, 9/13).

CBS News on one health system and the way they handle malpractice claims: A University of Michgan Health System "policy of honesty and apology started in 2002, and it's proven to be a shrewd business practice for the 40-member hospital system. Since then, claims against the system have dropped from 262 in 2001 to 83 in 2007. Fewer claims have allowed the system to drop its malpractice insurance cash reserves from 73 million to 13 million. The policy was initiated at the University of Michigan by Rick Boothman, who spent 30 years defending hospitals in malpractice cases" (David, 9/12).

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