MEDICAL ERRORS: Parties Introduce Opposing Plans
Efforts to establish a bipartisan Senate bill addressing medical errors "officially collapsed" yesterday, as both Republicans and Democrats introduced opposing legislation. The Democrats' plan, called the Error Reduction and Improvement in Patient Safety Act, was proposed by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee ranking member Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and fellow committee member Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). That plan calls for the creation of a new federal agency, the Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety as recommended by the Institute of Medicine, and earmarks $50 million for the first year's budget. It also makes the reporting of medical errors confidential and voluntary. But the plan could later make such reporting mandatory, by linking reporting requirements to participation in Medicare, Medicaid and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. The GOP proposal, introduced by HELP Chair James Jeffords (R-Vt.) and HELP public health subcommittee Chair Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), is called the "Patient Safety and Error Reduction Act." It also includes provisions for the creation of a new agency and a $50 million first-year budget, but it would keep reporting errors for health care facilities voluntary and includes a higher level of protection on information provided to individuals who report problems. The GOP bill drew fire from Democrats who say it "goes too far." A Kennedy spokesperson said the GOP measure is an attempt to create new liability protections for hospitals and doctors, "under the guise of improving patient safety." He added that it would permit hospitals to retain information needed in malpractice cases. But Jeffords refuted the allegation, saying the bill "in no way limits the legal recourse that patients have now" (Rovner, CongressDaily/A.M., 6/16).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.