In his address to Congress Wednesday, President Barack Obama outlined two new proposals designed to show he's not ignoring the concerns of Republicans: a medical malpractice pilot program and the creation of high-risk pools to help people with poor health avoid catastrophic expenses.
The president's comments on medical malpractice went beyond the speech he gave to the American Medical Association in June. At that time, he rejected a cap on malpractice awards, but said he would look at other ideas to scale back so- called defensive medicine, which causes doctors to conduct needless tests out of fear of potential lawsuits.
The proposal he outlined Wednesday would initiate projects around the country to create alternatives to malpractice suits. The White House points out that the idea originated in the Bush administration.
"They didn't pull the trigger on it. We are willing to pull the trigger on it, " a senior Obama administration official said.
The official said the proposal wouldn't be part of any health-care legislation, but rather launched administratively. Similar programs are under way in Indiana and Maine, officials said.
"I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs," Obama said.
Obama's support of the medical malpractice proposal drew immediate criticism from the Center for Justice & Democracy, which said it would tilt the playing field in favor of insurance companies.
"Proposals that ends up shielding unsafe hospitals or grossly negligent doctors from accountability by intruding upon the legal system are terrible public policy," Joanne Doroshow, the center's executive director, said in a statement.
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