obama makes a push to cut down on medical malpractice lawsuits

Following up on a pledge made to Republicans, Obama recently allocated more than $20 million in grants to universities and medical institutions for the purpose of studying hospital safety measures and ways to cut back on medical malpractice lawsuits. A popular target, especially for Republican lawmakers, medical malpractice lawsuits are often cited as one of, if not the, main factor behind current healthcare costs.

While the numbers don’t really support this stance – most seem to downright contradict it – a large number of lawmakers have continued to call for limits on medical malpractice lawsuits. The $23.3 million from the Obama administration will go towards addressing Republican concerns, but with a focus on improving patient safety and thinning out the areas that often lead to malpractice suits.

The money will be split between 20 grants. Seven of these provide for three-year “demonstration projects” focused on things such as standardizing obstetrics procedures and setting up a system that pays individuals immediately following a medical error. The latter would, hopefully, offer an alternative to long, drawn-out lawsuits.

The remaining 13 grants are each good for one-year “planning initiatives.” The example given by N.C. Aizenman in The Washington Post is from Oregon and involves legal protection for doctors and physicians who treated patients based on “state-endorsed, proof-based care procedures.

For now, rather than limiting the ability of injured patients to file medical malpractice lawsuits, the president’s initiative is focused on uncovering possible solutions. After the grants run out, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, changes for doctors and med mal lawyers.

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