A bill that would set up a voluntary, nonpunitive system for medical-errors reporting was approved 20-0 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) pledged to bring the bill to the full Senate for debate "as quickly as possible." The House passed a similar bill in March. Under the Senate bill, HHS would oversee the creation of a national database to aggregate information on medical errors. "Patient safety organizations" would collect and analyze the initial reports. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) withdrew plans to introduce an amendment to encourage investments in error-reducing information technology after it was determined the proposal would not have enough votes to pass.
In other legislative news, a bill will be introduced after Congress' August recess aimed at expediting the process by which healthcare providers, as well as police and fire departments, receive federal funds for antiterrorist preparations. Under the proposal by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), areas deemed at greater risk of terrorist attack would receive a greater share of the funds. -- by Jeff Tieman and Tony Fong