Health Court Reform Proposal Gains Key Support

May 01, 2013, 10:31 ET from Common Good

New Simpson-Bowles Plan and Brookings Report Advocate Health Courts to Cut Medical Costs

NEW YORK, May 1, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Momentum for the creation of specialized health courts continues to build, as the nation faces rising health care costs without addressing the avoidable waste caused by unreliable medical justice, which fuels billions of dollars in unnecessary "defensive medicine" annually. Two new proposals from widely respected groups add to the growing calls for health courts. These proposals come in the wake of the first U.S. presidential race in which both major-party candidates endorsed health courts.

  • The Brookings Institution issued on April 29th a report titled "Bending the Curve: Person-Centered Health Care Reform: A Framework for Improving Care and Slowing Health Care Cost Growth." The authors of the report, which was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Irene Diamond Fund, include some of the most distinguished names in health care and budget management from both major political parties. In a section titled "Encourage States to Develop More Efficient Medical Liability Systems", the report says that state-level reforms should focus on "well-supported models", including the following:

"Reforms that modify the existing judicial process for resolving tort claims with lower-cost and more predictable alternatives. These include a 'patient compensation system' that enables most claims to be settled through a standardized administrative process with predictable awards based on the adverse outcome involved, and Health Courts in which independent experts with clinical expertise would adjudicate liability claims."

  • A new deficit-reduction plan was proposed on April 19th by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who chaired the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and now chair the Moment of Truth Project. The plan – "A Bipartisan Path Forward to Securing America's Future" – states, in a section titled "Enact Medicare Malpractice Reform ($20 billion through 2023)", "The current medical malpractice system adds substantially to the cost of health care, including by increasing the cost of defensive medicine." It recommends implementing eight reforms, including "applying a health court model to malpractice claims in the Federal Claims Court."

The concept of health courts has been championed by Common Good – the nonpartisan government reform coalition – working with experts at the Harvard School of Public Health. Under Common Good's model, health courts would have judges dedicated full-time to resolving health care disputes. The judges would make written rulings to provide guidance on proper standards of care. These rulings would set precedents on which both patients and doctors could rely. To ensure consistency and fairness, each ruling could be appealed to a new Medical Appellate Court.

The health court concept has been endorsed by virtually every legitimate health care constituency, including medical societies, patient safety organizations and consumer groups like AARP. The public also supports it. A nationwide poll conducted in 2012 by Clarus Research Group revealed that 66 percent of voters support the idea of creating health courts to decide medical claims.

"Except for opposition from the trial lawyers who benefit from the current system of unreliable justice, health courts would be implemented and the public would avoid spending billions of dollars unnecessarily," said Philip K. Howard, Founder and Chair of Common Good. "The only question now is: How much longer does the public want to pay for that unnecessary waste?"

Common Good ( is a nonpartisan government reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. The Founder and Chair of Common Good is Philip K. Howard, a lawyer and author of Life Without Lawyers and The Death of Common Sense.

SOURCE Common Good