Calif. GOP Says Reform Law Fails To Adequately Curb Malpractice Costs
Several members of California's Republican congressional delegation have said the new health reform law does not fully address the role that medical malpractice lawsuits play in contributing to health care costs, the Contra Costa Times reports.
Some GOP members are calling for new national legislation based on California's Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act, or MICRA (Steinberg, Contra Costa Times, 4/25).
MICRA imposes a $250,000 cap on the amount plaintiffs can receive in non-economic damages for "pain and suffering." It does not limit the amount plaintiffs can seek for other costs, such as lost wages, medical expenses and punitive damages (California Healthline, 9/21/2009).
Proponents of Medical Malpractice Changes
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said the Congressional Budget Office has found that the U.S. could reduce spending by up $54 billion over 10 years if it adopted California's regulations on medical malpractice.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) added that malpractice lawsuits add an estimated $126 billion annually to the country's health care spending.
Different Cost Estimates
Amitabh Chandra, a health care economist at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, estimated that malpractice lawsuits amount to about $10 billion in annual health care costs.
In addition, some recent studies have suggested that malpractice lawsuits are not among the top contributors to medical costs.
Gerald Kominski, associate director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said that more tort reform could be beneficial but that it would not dramatically reduce health care costs.
Defense of Health Reform Law
In response to the GOP criticism, Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) said the health reform law does takes steps toward addressing medical liability issues.He noted that starting in 2011, the law permits the HHS secretary to award five-year demonstration grants for different tort reform initiatives. Baca also said the law extends medical liability protections under the Federal Tort Claims Act (Contra Costa Times, 4/25). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.