House Reform Bill Would Give Dollar Rewards To States That Pass Tort Reforms

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , August 14, 2009

However several other parts of the amendment were struck. A previous version of the amendment would have prohibited plaintiffs from using the fact that a physician or hospital expressed the words "I'm sorry" to the wronged patient or patient's survivor as part of the plaintiff's case. That provision was voided.

Another idea to allow programs that offer liability protections for providers who could prove that their care was performed with strict use of evidence based medicine—the definition of which is still under development for many types of specialty care—was also struck.

The amount of the incentive payments would be at the discretion of the secretary of Health and Human Services, and the state would have to stipulate that the funds would be used to improve health care in that state.

J. James Rohack, MD, president of the American Medical Association whose members booed President Obama in June for saying he would not support caps on medical malpractice court judgments, says his organization was "encouraged" by the amendment.

"Medical liability reform . . . is needed to reduce unnecessary costs to the health system. The bill encourages the states to explore alternatives to the costly liability system through reforms that ensure court cases have merit and that allow providers to quickly compensate patients without litigation," he says.

"This is an important step in the right direction toward reforming our broken liability system, and AMA will continue to work for much-needed liability reform," he adds.

The bipartisan amendment was offered by Reps. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, Nathan Deal of Georgia, and Jim Matheson of Utah, and was passed by a voice vote on July 31, the last day of the bill's markup.

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