Legislators Expect to Consider Malpractice Reforms in February Session
January 12, 2012— Malpractice reform has caught the attention of healthcare professionals at the national level because of its economic impact on reducing costs. A study conducted in 2010 by Amitabh Chandra, PhD, an economist and professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, estimated that 2.4% or approximately $60 billion annually could be attributed to malpractice claims.
The consultants are looking into the role of defensive medicine and overutilization on medical costs, and conducting a survey among 2,500 physicians to determine how they deal with medical procedures that could lead to a liability claim.
The benefits and impacts of liability reform will become part of their report along with how medical liability cases have been handled. The consultants' work will provide information to the Legislature to determine if Oregon will benefit from the implementation of reform options, including whether to alter the maximum amount of non-economic damages, called a cap, that someone could receive in a malpractice lawsuit.
Currently, Oregon has a $500,000 limit on non-economic damages. The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled that the cap is invalid except for causes of action that did not apply in 1857 when the state's constitution was written. The exceptions are for wrongful death and pre-natal injury cases.
The consultants from Harvard’s Department of Health Policy and Management include Michelle Mello, PhD, chair of the HSPH Institutional Review Board; Dr. Allen Kachalia, medical director for quality and safety at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston, and Kate Baicker, PhD, who served as a member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Also, both Florida and Nevada have placed limits on damages that arise when a patient is treated in a hospital emergency room. And four states -- Arizona, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Wyoming- explicitly prohibit caps on medical liability damages in their constitution.
The American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Medical Association and the American Tort Reform Association, recommend a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages.