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Strengthening Healthcare

The President's Framework for Improving the Medical Liability System

In his speech today, the President proposed a framework urgent Federal action to address the medical liability crisis.

  • National adoption of proven minimum standards to make the medical liability system more fair, predictable, and timely. Experience in many states has demonstrated that these standards can reduce Federal government costs by $30 billion per year or more, freeing up needed funds for making health care more affordable. These standards can reduce health care costs for all Americans by $60 billion or more, and improve access to quality health care as well.
  • Secure the ability of injured patients to get quicker, unlimited compensation for their "economic losses," including the loss of ability to provide unpaid services like care for children or parents.
  • Ensure that recoveries for non-economic damages do not exceed a reasonable amount ($250,000).
  • Reserve punitive damages for cases where they are justified, and limit punitive damages to reasonable amounts (i.e., up to the greater of two times economic damages or $250,000).
  • Provide for payments of judgments over time rather than in a single lump sum, to ensure that appropriate payments are there when patients need them.
  • Ensure that old cases cannot be brought years after an event.
  • Ensure that juries are informed if a plaintiff has other sources of reimbursement for an injury.
  • Provide that defendants pay judgments in proportion to their fault.

  • Improvements in health care quality and patient safety through litigation reform. Patients deserve high-quality health care without avoidable medical errors and complications, and the Administration is supporting many efforts to achieve this goal, through better information and other steps to improve quality. One proven approach to reducing errors and complications is patient safety and quality improvement programs implemented by doctors and health care organizations working together. By sharing information on quality problems, errors, and near-misses, health professionals can determine ways to avoid errors and complications in the first place. But these efforts are blocked by fear of litigation -- good-faith efforts to improve quality and safety result in lawsuits based on the new information about opportunities to improve care that these efforts create.
  • Earlier this year, the President called for legislation to give health professionals the limited liability protections necessary to implement new programs to improve quality and safety.
  • Bipartisan legislation is now pending in both the House and the Senate that will provide protection from use in lawsuits of new reports and efforts of Patient Safety Organizations to improve patient care.
  • This protection will make it possible for health professionals to work together more effectively to provide the best possible care for all patients.

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