Some Oregonians are hopeful their state moved one step closer to meaningful malpractice reform, with Senate Bill 483 passing the House March 12. The bill, which promotes mediation over litigation in cases of medical errors, passed easily in the Senate earlier this month and Gov. John Kitzhaber is expected to sign it soon, HealthcareFinanceNews reported.
"This important legislation will help resolve many serious medical events before they go to court by allowing health care providers and patients to have early discussions in a confidential setting," Kitzhaber said in a statement. Most provisions of the bill will take effect by 2014.
According to proponents, the voluntary mediation program will help reduce frivolous malpractice suits, the Oregonian reported, while critics say the bill does not go far enough because it lacks limits on medical malpractice rewards.
"This is not tort reform. It will offer no relief for our surgeons and OB-GYNs who operate in constant fear of lawsuits," Republican Sen. Ted Ferrioli, who voted against the bill, told the Lund Report. "This is a case of bait and switch. I think it represents a promise broken."
Under the bill, the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, a semi-independent state agency created in 2011 will develop administrative procedures for notification and mediation, HFN reported. The newly created Resolution of Adverse Health Care Incidents Task Force will evaluate the mediation program.
The bill also bans insurers, regulators, licensing boards and providers from asking the commission, providers or patients about adverse incidents being reported or mediated, and bars the use of such information as a basis for disciplinary or licensing actions. The bill does allow quality review of patient care in some circumstances, however.