Who knew that Peter Orszag would turn out to be a tremendous columnist?
The traditional way to reform medical malpractice law has been to impose caps on liability — for example, by limiting punitive damages to something like $500,000. A far better strategy would be to provide safe harbor for doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. Anyone who could demonstrate that he has followed the recommended course for treating a specific illness or condition could not be held liable.
The health care reform act that Congress passed earlier this year included a modest set of state pilot projects, including one in Oregon that is intended to experiment with this approach. But these pilots are small; the project in Oregon, for example, has only $300,000 in financing.
What’s needed is a much more aggressive national effort to protect doctors who follow evidence-based guidelines. That’s the only way that malpractice reform could broadly promote the adoption of best practices.
This approach is far from perfect. It places a heavy burden on the creation of evidence-based guidelines. But it’s an example of creative thinking that leads me to believe that a heavier Orszag influence might have improved policymaking in the White House. One wonders how many times he was overruled during internal deliberations. Or perhaps I’m being too generous.