Friday, November 20, 2009

Healthcare Bill Provision of the Day

Earlier this week, I critiqued a provision of the House healthcare bill (HR 3962) that would incentivize states away from alternative dispute resolution procedures that cap malpractice liability or lawyer fees. Well there's another gift to trial lawyers buried in the bill.

Specifically, to achieve President Obama's claimed desire to reduce healthcare costs, the bill's government-run plan would fix doctor compensation based on what a committee of bureaucrats believes appropriate to treat a given illness. See Sections 323-24 starting on page 216. Yet, Section 261(a) on page 149 says:
The development, recognition, or implementation of any guideline or other standard under a provision described in [the payment provisions] shall not be construed to establish the standard of care or duty of care owed by health care providers to their patients in any medical malpractice action or claim.
Critical Condition's Joseph Nixon explains that this:
puts physicians in an impossible conundrum. Doctors will only be reimbursed that amount for which the health-care commissioner determines is the appropriate treatment for a particular set of symptoms. However, doctors may still be held legally liable for failing to give that care which they could or should have given if additional care is actually more appropriate for the patient's well being.

So doctors are left with a choice between providing care that they know will benefit the patient but for which they may not be reimbursed, or providing limited care for which they will be reimbursed but quite possibly also sued by the patient.
Advantage -- again -- to the trial lawyers' lobby: the sixth largest campaign contributor over the past two decades. As for doctors: prepare to be assimilated.


Geoffrey Britain said...

It's the trial lawyers that should be assimilated.

The profession has become a 'cancer' upon the body politic.

NATIONALIZE trial lawyers and set their compensation at that of public defenders! :-)

O Bloody Hell said...

> NATIONALIZE trial lawyers and set their compensation at that of public defenders! :-)

Loser pays, or at least some variant on it, is adequate.