Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) introduced legislation today that seeks to overhaul the medical liability system by establishing special health courts or other alternatives in the states.
At least 10 states would receive demonstration grants from HHS to find alternatives to the current tort system for resolving medical malpractice claims. Each state would be awarded $500,000 in grant money, which may last for up to five years. To receive funding, states would have to show how their plans would provide prompt and fair dispute resolution, encourage early disclosure of medical errors, ensure patient safety and improve the affordability of malpractice insurance for providers.
Patients would still have the opportunity to litigate instead of pursuing alternatives the states would propose, but the key is to create alternatives that would be fair and predictable to both healthcare providers and patients, Enzi said. When someone has a medical emergency, they want to see a doctor in a hospital room, not a court room, he said.
The bill was endorsed by a number of healthcare organizations at a separate news conference, including the Joint Commission, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Common Good, AARP and the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
Trial lawyers, however, arent going to like the finality of such a process, as theres no jury system, and in a jury system you have the right to appeal, said Lee Derr, chief counsel for Republican Sen. Jane Orie of the Pennsylvania State Senate, who spoke at the news conference held by the interest groups. In addition, the bill imposes a 20% limitation on attorneys fees, he added. Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.). -- by Jennifer Lubell