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Senate Hearing Considers Health Court Model To Help Reduce Medical Malpractice Insurance Costs

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Thursday held a hearing on a bill (S 1337) sponsored by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) that would test a number of proposals to reduce medical malpractice insurance costs, CQ HealthBeat reports (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 9/22). The legislation would authorize the HHS secretary to fund state demonstration projects to test three malpractice dispute resolution models: the early disclosure and compensation model, the administrative determination of compensation model and the special health court model (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 7/1/05). According to CQ HealthBeat, the health court model "attracted much attention at the hearing," with witnesses "divided on their merits." Under the health court model, judges with health care expertise, with help from independent expert witnesses, would adjudicate malpractice claims. Duke University Health System, Johns Hopkins University Medical Institutions, Yale-New Haven Hospital and Yale Medical Group have agreed to participate in a demonstration project to test the health court model.


Kenneth Kizer, former president of the National Quality Forum; Margaret O'Kane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance; and officials from the Progressive Policy Institute said that they support the health court model. The American Medical Association said that the health court model will require a number of tests but might reduce the number of meritless malpractice claims and reduce litigation costs. However, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the American Bar Association and some consumer advocacy groups raised concerns that the health court model would deny access to jury trials for injured patients. Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said that jury trials ensure that injured patients receive a fair hearing and that without the possibility of jury trials, patients would not receive settlements in many cases. He also said that injured patients must have a "genuine choice" between jury trials and other dispute resolution models. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said that he supports the health court model but that injured patients should retain the option of jury trials (CQHealthBeat, 9/22).

Reprinted with permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.