The White House rolled out a modest program Thursday examining ways to discourage frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits, but what was meant as a bipartisan overture was quickly denounced by Republicans, business and consumer groups as an empty gesture.
The Obama administration said that it would offer $25 million in grants to identify practices that would reduce medical errors, scale back malpractice insurance premiums, and spare doctors from nuisance litigation.
Traditionally, Democrats have opposed changes in malpractice law, protecting the interests of trial lawyers who are a major source of fund-raising support. Republicans, for their part, have long sought changes in litigation practices so that employers are not hit with excessive judgments.
For that matter, public-interest groups said if the intent is to woo Republicans, Obama is wasting time. They predicted that the medical malpractice initiative would pick up no Republican votes, nor succeed in reining in healthcare costs.
"It's a completely unsuccessful strategy,'' said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a national consumer rights group. "The Republican vote will never be there and this is not going to change that. It's simply risking the rights of patients and that's a terrible political risk to take. When you strip or weaken patients' legal rights to go to court or place obstacles in their way, all that you're doing is putting more money in the hands of insurance companies.''
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