Archives: February 2012

President should back up his rhetoric with real reform

In his State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to set aside politics and work with the White House on passing legislation. But the president neglected to mention that Republicans in Congress have been doing just that. Unfortunately, our efforts to expand the economy and create jobs for American workers have been rebuffed by the White House. If the president is serious about working across party lines to tackle the tough issues facing America today, I urge him to support common-sense proposals from the House Judiciary Committee. Rein in regulations: The House of Representatives passed three Judiciary Committee bills last year to help lessen the strain of burdensome regulations on business owners. More than once this year, the president has talked about the dangers that excessive regulations pose to our economy. But unfortunately, his actions speak louder than his words. Federal regulations already cost our economy $1.75 trillion per year. But rather than reduce the number of regulations, the Obama administration has only added to the burden. The administration counted 410 new major rules in its regulatory agendas for 2010 and 2011. That’s four times the number of major rules than during the first two years of the…

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It’s fiscally irresponsible not to address liability reform

The economics are irrefutable, and the human evidence is sobering. The present medical liability situation in this country is adding to the already high cost of American medical care, driving physicians away from certain geographies and practice specialties — and shortchanging patients in the process. We all pay the price for our broken medical liability system and the direct effect it has on the cost of medical care. Study after study has shown that today's medical liability system contributes to high health care costs because it forces physicians to practice defensive medicine. This shows up in unnecessary tests ordered and procedures performed, and it also shows up when physicians do not provide certain care to avoid litigation risks. In 2003, the Dept. of Health and Human Services estimated the cost of defensive medicine to be between $70 billion and $126 billion per year. Many also believe the system actually hinders safety improvements, because our highly litigious environment discourages physicians from the open collaboration necessary to understand the cause of medical errors. The present situation also hurts patients: In areas with high insurance premiums and significant litigation, there has been a decline in the number of physicians willing to practice in…

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Defensive medicine seeping into physician training, study says

Practicing defensive medicine to avoid medical liability lawsuits may not be a formal part of medical school curriculum, but it’s still being taught to medical students and residents, a study shows. A survey of 202 fourth-year medical students and third-year residents at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago found that 94% of students and 96% of residents have seen examples of defensive medicine in their clinical training. Nearly two-thirds of students and three-quarters of residents said their attending physician implied that they take medical liability concerns into consideration when making clinical decisions. Nearly half of respondents said their attending directly instructed them to do so, says the study in the February Academic Medicine (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22189882/). Educators should reframe such conversations to focus on reducing liability risk by improving patient safety and communication, said Kevin O’Leary, MD, lead study author and associate professor and associate chief of Northwestern’s Division of Hospital Medicine. “At its core, medical malpractice is about preventable injury to patients,” he said. “I think we lose track of that and focus on the potential risk to ourselves when we should focus on the potential risk to our patients. We can help trainees with clinical decision-making without having to…

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February 2012 Newsletter

Recap of Reform at HCLA Annual Meeting The Health Coalition on Liability and Access met in Washington, DC earlier this month to discuss recent developments at the state level and hear from medical liability reform experts and Members of Congress on the path towards reform in 2012. Speakers at this year’s Annual Meeting included Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), Dr. Timothy McDonald of the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, attorney Mark Behrens of Shook Hardy & Bacon LLP, and Mike Glasstetter of the American Medical Association. Representative Stearns, the sponsor of the Good Samaritan Health Professionals Act, spoke about the need to protect medical volunteers from meritless lawsuits during large-scale disasters – a key legislative priority for the HCLA this year. “How many medical professionals would volunteer to help [in a disaster] if we get this bill passed?” Representative Stearns asked. “It would save lives, and it’s the right thing to do.” Additional topics on the agenda at this year’s meeting included efforts to ensure patient safety, defending state reforms against efforts by personal injury lawyers to overturn them, and an update on legislative achievements at the state level. “I look forward to our…

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