Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Malpractice reform liberals and conservatives should like

It is rare but sometimes someone will come up with an idea that liberals and conservatives can both like. That may have happened with malpractice reform. Conservatives have argued for some time that the nation needs to cap malpractice awards as a way of reigning in health care costs. Liberals have opposed such restrictions fearing that patients would lose rights. Richard Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association, says his group has come up with a plan for malpractice reform that both liberals and conservatives can like. Here is what the association proposes:

  • Patients who've suffered an injury at the hands of a medical professional or institution could take their case to a local panel of experts appointed by state authorities.
  • The patient wouldn't have to prove negligence, only that the doctor could have avoided the problem by following established guidelines for clinical practice. Doctors would be protected if they adhered to established standards which would get at the root cause of defensive medicine.
  • If the experts find that a patient was harmed and the injury could have been avoided, the panel would offer compensation.
  • Payments would not be open-ended, but based on a publicly available compensation schedule.
  • A patient who disagrees with the local panel's ruling could appeal to a higher-level panel, and ultimately, to a court.
  • Congress wouldn’t order states to adopt such reform but would provide financial grants to encourage states to adopt such practices.

The adminstration has set aside $25 million for pilot programs in malpractice reform. This might be one of them.How about that for an idea worth considering?

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