When Clinton and Obama agreed

by Walter Olson on February 15, 2008

Before they officially became presidential candidates, the Illinois and New York senators co-authored an article in the May 25, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, entitled “Making Patient Safety the Centerpiece of Medical Liability Reform.” (See: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/21/2205)

They sympathized with physicians over escalating insurance costs and condemned the current tort system for creating an “intimidating liability environment.” Still, Clinton and Obama said, it’s more important to focus on how to improve patient safety than “areas of intense disagreement,” such as caps on financial awards to patients.

They introduced legislation, which died in committee in 2006, to provide money and assistance to physicians, hospitals, insurers, and health care systems to start programs for disclosure of medical errors and compensation to patients. The bill would have created an office of patient safety and health care quality to establish a database to track incidents of malpractice and fund research into guidelines to prevent future injuries.

“Physicians would be given certain protections from liability … in order to promote a safe environment for disclosure. … This legislation would provide doctors and patients with an opportunity to find solutions outside the courtroom. In return, [hospitals, insurers, and others] would be required to use savings achieved by reducing legal defense costs to reduce liability insurance premiums and to foster patient-safety initiatives.”

(Mark Crane, MedPageToday, Jan. 7). More: see Ted’s December post at PoL.