Republicans press HHS on malpractice reform

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"The President’s September 9, 2009 speech gave the clear impression that taxpayers’ monies would be spent, in significant part, on projects related to “traditional” medical malpractice reforms," they said in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Contrary to that clear impression, it appears that none of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing “traditional” medical malpractice reforms."

Obama and Republicans agree, at least rhetorically, that malpractice suits raise the cost of healthcare. They say doctors perform tests that are probably unnecessary because they're afraid of being sued if they don't.

Republicans want to cap non-economic damages in malpractice suits at $250,000, the approach favored by the American Medical Association. Obama has backed a different policy. He has said doctors who adhere to the best practices for their specialty should be immune from lawsuits altogether, but those who don't follow accepted guidelines should be subject to lawsuits without a cap on damages.

Republicans wanted the AHRQ fund to adhere to what they call "traditional" malpractice reforms.

"None of the $23.2 million awarded has gone to researching or implementing 'traditional' medical malpractice reforms and … it appears that all of the research funded by the AHRQ is aimed at proving the obvious: as the number of adverse events declines, the number of malpractice lawsuits also declines," a press release accompanying the letter states.