President Obama's Budget Includes a Breakthrough to Address Medical Malpractice Reform and Move Beyond Partisanship

Funding For Health Courts Would Restore Medical Justice, Thereby Reducing Defensive Medicine Which Is A Significant Factor In Unnecessarily Driving Up Health Care Costs

Feb 16, 2011, 10:59 ET from Common Good

NEW YORK, Feb. 16, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- President Barack Obama's recently unveiled Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 calls for "a more aggressive effort to reform our medical malpractice system to reduce defensive medicine, promote patient safety, and improve patient outcomes" and "encourages Republicans to work constructively with him on medical malpractice as part of an overall effort to restrain health costs." It then allocates funding for state-by-state implementation of medical justice reform initiatives, including health courts.

As the Associated Press reports, "Obama's budget calls for $250 million in Justice Department grants to help states rewrite their malpractice laws in line with recommendations that his bipartisan debt reduction commission issued last year…Topping the list of ideas in an Obama administration summary of the proposal are health courts."

"This is a very significant moment for controlling health care costs," said Philip K. Howard, Chair of Common Good, the nonpartisan reform coalition that has championed the creation of health courts. "Health courts have long been opposed by the trial lawyers, a powerful special interest in Washington, which benefits handsomely from the lack of consistency in the current medical justice system. Yet, with this budget item, President Obama is moving beyond partisanship and, in effect, saying that the country can no longer afford the rising health care costs that defensive medicine unnecessarily fuels."

The concept of health courts originated with Common Good, working in conjunction with experts at the Harvard School of Public Health and with funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In health courts, expert judges with special training would resolve 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. As with similar administrative courts that exist in other areas of law – for tax disputes, workers' compensation, and vaccine liability, among others – there would be no juries. To assure predictability and fairness, each ruling could be appealed to a new Medical Appellate Court.

Common Good ( is a nonpartisan legal reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. The 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