Republicans unsatisfied with Obama malpractice reform stand

In his much-discussed speech last week, President Obama took what could be considered a very lukewarm stand on malpractice reform, promising only to ask HHS to conduct demonstration projects that would point the way to smart reform. This was supposed to be a form of outreach to the Republican side of the house, and hopefully a means to win a few more reform votes.

HHS officials have already taken up the ball, promising that they will soon offer specifics on how much they'll spend on pilot projects and what approaches they'll be testing. The White House has already indicated, however, what approaches it most favors. These include pre-litigation screening, in which patients would have to have their claims approved by a panel of experts prior to going to court. Another much-discussed approach to malpractice reform includes health courts, in which cases are adjudicated by judges with healthcare-specific education and training, but it's not clear where the Administration stands on this fix.

For those on the right, many of whom see tort reform as a key hurdle, an offer to research tort reform issues was nothing like the commitment they were hoping to see. "Finally, [Obama] is acknowledging the problem and taking some initial steps. But ultimately, it seemed more like lip service than a real commitment," Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Many Republicans continue to press for national legislation that would impose caps on malpractice damages, a stand that has won favor in many state legislatures.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece

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