Critical Condition

Slight Progress on Med Mal

Following up on the president’s statement about medical malpractice last week, the White House has issued a press release detailing some steps they will be taking to address out of control medical malpractice costs and the havoc they wreak on our health-care system. 


Well, no, they didn’t quite put it that way, but as with dealing with any issue, the first step is to recognize that there’s a problem. Therefore, the fact that a Democratic White House acknowledges the following facts, even diluted with weak-kneed “may” language, will bolster med-mal reform efforts and irk the trial lawyers:


The medical community reports serious problems with the medical liability system.


Many doctors believe that medical liability concerns lead to “defensive medicine,” which in turn may contribute to higher costs.


Many physicians continue to struggle to pay their medical malpractice premiums, which vary tremendously by specialty and by state.


The cost of insurance continues to be one of the highest practice expenses for some specialties.


Fears of medical malpractice claims may lead to altered practices, restricted emergency coverage, and limited or discontinued high-risk procedures.


The solution part, however, still needs some work. The release calls for only $25 million in grants to evaluate demonstration projects, plan new demonstrations, and to review existing initiatives. They also couch it in terms of improving patient safety, which is a good thing, but could mean that much of the $25 million goes to projects that focus mainly on safety and have little to do with medical liability.

Note: The release states that the statement was embargoed until 10:45, but I have yet to see the document on the White House website. To read it, click here for a cut and paste version.

Tevi Troy is a presidential historian and former White House aide. His latest book is Fight House: Rivalries in the White House from Truman to Trump.