Want to save $62.4 billion? Enact medical liability reform, AMA says

October 19, 2011

Here’s a straightforward way for Congress' Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to save $62.4 billion over 10 years without cutting payments to healthcare providers: Institute meaningful medical liability reform. That was what the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians and more than 90 other state and specialty medical societies told the so-called “supercommittee.” Read on to see the specific recommendations.

Here’s a straightforward way for Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to save $62.4 billion over 10 years without cutting payments to healthcare providers: Institute meaningful medical liability reform.

That was what the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, and more than 90 other state and specialty medical societies told the so-called “supercommittee” in essentially identical letters sent to Democratic and Republican co-chairs.

“Reforming the costly and inefficient medical liability system with proven solutions will save taxpayers money,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD “Comprehensive reforms that include a reasonable limit on non-economic damages would reduce the federal budget deficit by $62.4 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.”

The reforms requested by the medical groups:

a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages;

a collateral source rule reform by allowing evidence of outside payments to be submitted in court, and a ban on subrogation by certain collateral sources;

language from H.R. 816, the “Provider Shield Act of 2011,” that would prohibit new causes of action against physicians and other healthcare providers from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA);

liability protections for physicians and other healthcare providers so that payment issues related to programs such as Medicare or Medicaid would not be admissible in a liability claim;

liability protections for physicians and other healthcare providers who provide emergency care or volunteer to treat victims of a disaster; and

a requirement that an individual who serves as an expert witness in a liability case meet established standards of expertise and knowledge.

The AMA also urged the deficit committee to include language that allows individual states to maintain or enact their own reforms.

“Preserving quality and access in medicine while reducing unnecessary cost will require fairness in the civil justice system,” Carmel said. “Every dollar that government health programs spend on the broken medical liability system is money that cannot be used on healthcare.”

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