We had several meetings this
week to keep the idea of a tort reform bill alive as an addendum to
health care reform. The problem is that Democrats have been beholden to the
trial bar in these regards (and Republicans
have also taken quite a bit of money from lawyers!). Republicans have the
additional problem of not wanting to see the Democrats succeed in any area, and
therefore don’t want to support tort reform with the President signing any bill
that might come forth.
We have to overcome all of this. What surely isn’t
possible politically (unfortunately) is to promote the best solution—namely,
instituting caps on noneconomic damages, as has been so successfully achieved
in California, Texas and a few other states. And, as you know, state
legislatures and state courts have been attacking and reversing some of those
laws which instituted noneconomic damage caps recently, under the direction of
the trial bar.
The ACC is working on bringing
together representatives of industry, insurance, hospitals and hopefully other
professional societies to suggest that major protections for medical
malpractice assaults should be instituted as part of an incentive-based
approach to implementing “meaningful
use” in the future. After all, if physicians adopt a vision of meaningful
use, which includes electronic health records, clinical decision support
systems, use of registries, e-prescribing and other significant and costly
innovations, there need to be incentives and a reward process. One of the best
rewards might be to offer protections in Medicare and Medicaid from malpractice
assault for those who adopt these kinds of innovations!
We are continuing to explore and promote this kind of important
step, which could be linked to other innovations such as health courts and
certificates of merit. Any such set of innovations would lead to a reduced
number of patient safety incidents and reduced relative risk. This ought to
cause a significant reduction in premiums in addition to any specific
legislative protections we might develop. Stay tuned.
*** Image from Flickr (walknboston).