A veteran advocate for government reform, Howard now embraces the challenge of changing the face of healthcare. He insists that healthcare has little choice but to move toward health courts—possibly modeled after similar programs in Europe—to reduce costs estimated at $45 billion at the very least.
"The whole point of health courts is to abandon the ad-hoc jury-by-jury approach and create a system of justice predicable from case to case," Howard tells me. "That's the only way you get rid of defensive medicine: Have written rulings by judges."
Howard says Common Good is working with the Harvard School of Public Health and has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to advance the project. He also says the concept is increasingly drawing attention because of the necessity to deal with "out-of-control costs."
Despite their differences over healthcare reform, both President Obama and his GOP challenger, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have endorsed such proposals, the first presidential candidates to do so, according to Howard.
In a letter to bipartisan leadership of the House in 2010, Obama wrote that his healthcare reforms included a provision "that authorizes funding to states for demonstrations of alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts." Obama said bills were sponsored in the House and Senate for demonstration projects of the proposals.
In a commentary this year in USA Today, Romney stressed the need for malpractice reforms. "We need to address out-of-control medical malpractice litigation, which is costly not only in direct terms but also in its distortion of the way patient care is administered," the presidential candidate wrote. "We can start by capping non-economic damages, but the federal government should also encourage states to pursue additional reforms such as specialized health care courts."