The Role of Medical Liability Reform in Federal Health Care Reform

This article explores three reasons why bundling both medical liability reform and health care reform may prove valuable in health care reform development:

1. Escalating health care costs are significantly tied to malpractice liability costs. The authors cite that a decrease of total health care spending by 1 percent would lead to a savings of $22 billion per year.

2. A bill aimed at creating a more rigorous financial environment for health care providers requires physician support. By offering a plan that alleviates a system many physicians feel is unfair and burdensome, physicians may be more willing to support the plan.

3. Bundling tort reform, cited by the article as a long-time Republican issue, may attract Republican support for a health care reform package. One approach may include disclosure-and-offer programs. Another may shift medical malpractice claims to a tribunal adjudication system; a third may create a federal “safe harbor” by protecting physicians from liability if evidence-based medical practices are adhered.

Medical malpractice law faces a hurdle in implementing a federal structure on what has been typically controlled by states. Yet, these three reasons for bundling both tort and health reform and the suggested approaches may prove helpful in creating a health care reform compromise.