Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is considering moving malpractice claims out of the courts and into a new system functioning much like one for workers' compensation claims, the Republican governor's office says.
Unlike malpractice litigation using juries, where there is no limit on damages, cases would be settled by a tribunal and awards would be based on a schedule of damages, which sets values for each type of injury.
Such a system would reduce the number of huge multimillion-dollar awards and the time it takes to settle a claim and would probably also provide more payouts than the jury system, according to a report written last week by Robert Pozen, the governor's chief economic adviser.
The report says the system would require legislative approval and would start as a pilot program, to be developed in conjunction with the Harvard School of Public Health.
The pilot would be open to only a few hospitals, one specialty (OB/GYN), and to only those plaintiffs who agree to use the system, the report says.
In conjunction with the new malpractice claims system, the program also would give physicians incentives to reduce errors, the report says.
It says malpractice insurers would be able to make risk ratings for groups of physicians rather than individual physicians, which would encourage doctors to work together to reduce medical errors. It would also provide incentives for doctors to report errors to carriers before the patient reports the error.
"Systemic changes to the procedures currently in place to compensate patients for injuries suffered from questionable medical practices are necessary in order to provide long-term stability to the healthcare delivery system," the report says.