Health Groups Disappointed Debt Commission Fails to Reach Agreement

Inaction on Defensive Medicine Solutions Not Good for Patients

Dec 03, 2010, 15:53 ET from Health Coalition on Liability and Access

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- The Health Coalition on Liability and Access today was disappointed that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform failed to reach a supermajority on proposals, including substantive medical liability reforms, to reduce the national deficit. The group strongly believes that medical liability reform will help control health care costs and reduce the national debt, and vows to get effective reforms passed in the new Congress.

"It is unfortunate that the President's Debt Commission failed to come to an agreement on serious reforms that will reduce our national deficit and put an end to the practice of defensive medicine," HCLA Chair Mike Stinson said. "Comprehensive medical liability reform must be a priority for the new Congress. Reform will not only help reduce the cost of defensive medicine and our skyrocketing deficits, but it will preserve access to quality care for all Americans," Stinson added.

Commission Chairmen Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, released an initial proposal in November that included plans to reduce health care costs – one of which is to "pay lawyers less and reduce the costs of defensive medicine by adopting comprehensive tort reform."  One of the reforms the co-chairs specifically noted was caps on punitive and non-economic damages.

The HCLA agrees with the Chairmen's proposal that medical liability reform should include reasonable limits on non-economic damages, which have a proven track record of success in states across the country.

Estimates vary, but conservatively, a study in September's Health Affairs journal placed the annual cost of our broken medical liability system at $55.6 billion. A 2006 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that the cost was upwards of $210 billion per year.

"Policy makers on both sides of the political aisle recognize the need for effective medical liability reforms," Stinson said.  "Congress should act promptly next year to pass reforms, including caps on non-economic damages, that will reduce the budget deficit, limit the practice of defensive medicine and keep personal injury lawyers from getting between patients and their health care providers."

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SOURCE Health Coalition on Liability and Access