Obama up for discussing med-mal reform

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 26, 2011, 3:00pm


WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, said he would consider medical malpractice reform to rein in the growing number of frivolous lawsuits.

Obama, in his annual speech before Congress, said further reductions in health care costs are needed, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid. He said the two are the biggest contributors to the nation's long-term deficit.

"The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit," he said.

Last week, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal Obama's health care reform act, 245-189. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, most likely will block the repeal measure. Even if it were to pass, Obama has said he would veto it.

Still, the President said he is "willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year -- medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."

According to a 2009 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, as much as $54 million could be saved over the next 10 years if Congress enacts limits on medical malpractice lawsuits.

The office, in its report, said legal reforms would lower medical malpractice premiums for physicians and other health care professionals as well as save money because doctors would feel more comfortable with their medical decisions without running otherwise unnecessary tests and procedures -- so-called defensive medicine.

Such reforms, including a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering and a $500,000 cap on punitive damages and restricting the statute of limitations on malpractice claims would reduce total national health care spending by about 0.5 percent, the office reported.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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