August 4, 2009
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A 1,000 page health care bill but still no limit on how much a doctor could be sued for medical malpractice under the government plan. President Obama has talked about the high cost of medical lawsuits saying a doctor should not have to look over his shoulder while practicing medicine, but has stopped short of calling for limits on medical malpractice awards. The AMA estimates that defensive medicine, when doctors perform unnecessary tests to protect themselves from potential lawsuits, cost up to an extra $151 billion a year. The Congressional Budget Office found caps on medical malpractice suits could save $4.3 billion from 2010 to 2019. But some consumer groups don't want lawsuits capped -- Joanne Doroshow (ph) of consumer advocacy group Center for Justice and Democracy.
JOANNE DOROSHOW, CTR. FOR JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY: Both claims and premiums in the medical malpractice area are each less than one percent of overall health care costs and in fact they've been less than one percent for over 30 years.
PILGRIM: Critics of the current system have been able to attach only one amendment to the House bill that would offer states financial incentives to reduce frivolous lawsuits and encourage more out of court settlements. Congressman Michael Burgess says Congress needs to do more.
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: If you're going to talk about major structural health care reform in this county you've got to include something that deals with the problem with medical liability. But it's absolutely unclear in the bill that we have before us. What will happen is doctors will continue to be sued just as they are now.
PILGRIM: Congressman Burgess tried to attach a limit on medical malpractice awards against doctors in the health care bill last week but it was defeated.
PILGRIM: Now this bill provides no additional protection for doctors against malpractice claims. The American Medical Association has endorsed the bill but says more should be done to protect doctors -- Lou.
DOBBS: It's really unclear where the AMA is in this and how they relate to the doctors in this country because anecdotally I don't hear that support for the AMA physician from doctors. But the idea of one percent and for 30 years, that sounds like somebody is leaving something out of the total number here.
PILGRIM: Well this whole concept of defensive medicine doing extra tests, doing extra -- every -- all sorts of extra procedures, that number is very hard to get your head around and it certainly is considerably more than one percent...
DOBBS: You put (ph) 151 billion alone for that.
PILGRIM: The AMA number is up to $151 billion a year and...
DOBBS: So $151 billion and no discussion in Congress or by this administration other than the fact the president said there will be no capping of malpractice claims.
PILGRIM: You know part of the discussion we had today with lawmakers is that many people wanted to leave this out because it's so controversial. They actually wanted to leave it out of the bill, but how do you address this -- how do you address health care reform in a bill that doesn't take this on? This is one of the major issues.
DOBBS: As we are going to report here through this week and the weeks ahead, there is a lot that's been left out and a lot of this has not been discussed by this administration -- the Congress and I'm including both Republican and Democratic parties in that. We're going to take care of that little oversight here. Thank you very much, Kitty. Appreciate it -- Kitty Pilgrim.