Liability Reform: A Broken Promise?
Republicans on the House Energy & Commerce Committee took President Obama to task on Tuesday in a short video that accused him of doing nothing to fulfill a promise made in last year’s State of the Union address to address medical liability reform.
With its eery, conspiratorial music and accusatory title fadeouts, I half expected to see Gary Oldman in a bespoke suit proclaim that the Joe Biden is a mole. (That reference may be lost on those of you who have not seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.)
Indeed, in that January 2011 speech, according to a fact sheet issued by the White House,
…the President pledged to work with Republicans to support state reforms of medical malpractice systems to bring down costs and improve care – building on Administration efforts already underway to assess what works in medical malpractice reform.
The House Republicans charge that they’ve reached out to the White House but have had no response.
About 134 House members — Republicans and Democrats — have put their names on a bill to overhaul the medical liability system that was introduced in Jan. 2011 by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.).
Physician organizations have en masse backed that bill, H.R. 5. But it has languished since May last year when it was reported out of the Energy & Commerce Committee.
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration did offer up an olive branch on tort reform in the Affordable Care Act. But nothing has come of that, either.
The ACA authorized $50 million in grants to states looking to demonstrate new models. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality was charged with managing the program, and it put out requests for proposal in Nov. 2010. The funds were supposed to be available beginning in Oct. 2011 but, according to an AHRQ spokesperson, Congress has not yet appropriated the funds for the initiative.
That means no grants have been issued under that program, although the AHRQ has funded other liability reform projects through an initiative announced by President Obama in the fall of 2009.
The leading GOP presidential candidates have promised that they will address medical liability reform. But even if a Republican does take the White House in November, the fulfillment of that promise is likely a long way off.