Malpractice reform missing from national discussion

It's a deafening silence on Capitol Hill--at least about malpractice reform.  

The issue of medical liability reform was noticeably absent from last week's presidential debate and hasn't been the center or much of a talking point for either candidate's platform.

However, President Barack Obama (D) and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) both mentioned the issue in last week's New England Journal of Medicine, suggesting they supported malpractice reform.

Romney did say, "Doctors should spend more time treating patients and less time practicing defensive medicine," in NEJM.

Similarly, Obama said, "I support medical malpractice reform to prevent needless lawsuits without placing arbitrary caps that do nothing to lower the cost of care," in his op-ed.

Nevertheless, malpractice reform has been largely ignored in the Affordable Care Act, assumingly because of campaign dollars, Anthony Youn, assistant professor of surgery at Oakland University/William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan, wrote in CNN.

"How could the Obama administration create such a comprehensive overhaul of healthcare without addressing this issue?" Youn wrote. "In today's climate of multimillion-dollar verdicts, one lawsuit could be financially devastating. A physician can work 30 years, healing and saving the lives of thousands of patients, yet one mistake at the end of his or her career could literally cost them everything," Youn continued.

The American Association for Justice, previously known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, represents 56,000 members and opposes tort reform, including malpractice caps. Since 1990, it has given 92 percent of its $36.8 million in contributions to Democrats, according to, Youn noted.

The issue, for now, may be relegated to the states. For instance, the Kansas Supreme Court on Friday upheld a malpractice cap at $250,000 in damages--a long-awaited decision in the state.  The court found the $250,000 maximum on noneconomic damages does not violate the Kansas Constitution, The Kansas City Star reported.

Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned Missouri's $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages.

For more information:
- read the CNN piece
- see the Kansas City Star article

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