Obama Turns on Medical Malpractice Tort Reform?

President Obama will speak to the American Medical Association on Monday. What’s on the agenda of the President? There is speculation that he will support some form of medical malpractice reform to throw doctors a bone in his health care reform package. Whether he supports hard reform (caps) or soft reform is anyone’s guess right now. (SEPTEMBER 9, 2009 POST SPEECH UPDATE HERE)

Shocking? Biting the hand that feeds him? As I wrote back in December, Obama’s support of malpractice caps in Illinois was an incredibly overlooked clue to Obama’s receptivity to tort reform. No one was paying attention because every victims’ lawyer assumed Obama was a better choice than the other guy.

I voted for Obama and I would do so again: malpractice tort reform and other issues of importance to personal injury lawyers is just one issue of many that are important to me. But would medical malpractice lawyers have been better served with McCain in office? McCain would not have moved 60 Democrats on this issue. Obama might be able to do so. Remember, only the zealously anti-communist Nixon could go to China. This is obviously a little bit of hindsight analysis but maybe support of Obama was the wrong play for personal injury lawyers. Democrats rolled their eyes when President Bush called for malpractice caps. Obama’s political position rightnow is such that it is hard for Democrats to roll their eyes at much of anything he supports right now.

I still do not think malpractice reform makes it past the Senate and I think Obama will lose his base in Congress on health care reform if he pushes substantive medical malpractice reform which probably suits President Obama just fine. Obama causes no harm to his base and the AMA and its progeny will have a lot less anti-Obama venom in 2012. Of course, I’m just speculating on all of this but if politics is a chess match, Obama always seems three moves ahead.

I like that Obama is willing to flip on his base. I just think he is wrong in thinking that malpractice reform is what this country needs.

Post Script (5 days later): Okay, I completely overreacted and got bad information from the media and my “inside sources” on where Obama is on malpractice tort reform. Here is the text of Obama’s speech to the AMA with respect to medical malpractice.

Post-Post Scrip (3 months later): We are now post-Labor Day and the health care battle has waged on at the exclusion of every other domestic priority we have now. My first reaction may have been correct on where Obama is on tort reform. Some commentators are suggesting that President Obama is ready offer up caps on medical malpractice cases. You can find the argument as to how and why Democrats may flip on trial lawyer – its traditional benefactor – and why I think this will not happen here.

  • Seems to me he wants to use the guidelines established by the newly-funded Comparative Effectiveness Research guidelines to create presumptions in (or maybe even dismiss) medical malpractice cases.

    That sounds fine to me. As I wrote before on my blog, CER will be a double-edged sword (protecting both patients and physicians) by creating a clear standard of care that was either followed or not followed, making liability itself clear.

    We’ll just have to see where the CER goes.

  • Michael

    Is it the opinion of malpractice attorneys that nothing should be done to change the current system with regards to litigation and reform?

    Drug companies-compensation cut. Insurance companies – federal competition. Doctors, P.A.’s, & R.N.’s – cut in compensation…..ambulance chasers– bigger malpractice pool as system is overwhelmed- YEEHAAA!!!

    If we are really going to make the system better sacrifice has to made by everyone-even the lawyers.

    I read your bit about defensive medicine and you really have no idea what you are talking about. You are on the outside looking in at your pot of gold.

    Take your worst client that has ever walked through your door ( a client you know is not a legitimate client) and find out that you are forced by the government to accept their business, spend hours and hours for which they will never pay you. Even better- if the client isn’t happy about the advice you give them – they can sue you and sully your reputation.

    No one is suggesting that the poor soul that gets the glove left in their chest during surgery does not deserve to be compensated—but our courts and tort lawyers have turned medical malpractice into a lottery.

    NO other country that has universal health care has litigation or rewards like we do. Despite out congress being made up of lawyers- I am hopeful that they will find their conscience.

  • Anonymous

    Do you think that your editing of your published statement about “medical malpractice attorneys AND THEIR VICTIMS” after you published my blog akin to a doctor changing the medical record after the fact? At least ethically? I suspect not. Is that how you advocate the maintenance of legal records? A doctor could be sent to jail for such a thing. JR

  • stephen coltharp

    Anyone who believes American health care can be fixed without torte reform is ignorant.

  • fendergibs

    It only makes logical sense that if one wants to lower medical cost then we should find ways to lower the cost of practicing medicine. Tort reform is overdue, long-awaited imperative that his part of this process. If lawyers charge expenses on top of a third of awards when he wins, then it only makes sense thatif he looses he would then have to cover the cost of the defendent(hospital). This way junk suits would be avoided as law firm would be accountable for the expenses of the defense if thrown out or lost. Can’t have it both ways as in the current system. Also a cap on pain & suffering is a must to aviod gold digging & skatter shot law suits looking for one to hit.

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