House Hearings on Medical Malpractice

Issue #1 for the House Judiciary Committee: medical malpractice reform. The title of the hearing gives you some idea of the objectivity: “Medical Liability Reform — Cutting Costs, Spurring Investment, Creating Jobs.”

The hearing came a day after the House of Representatives voted 245-189 to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The repeal vote is seen as largely symbolic, since leaders of the Democratic-controlled Senate have vowed to block repeal. However, Republicans are now expected to begin trying to chip away at the ACA by passing bills to repeal certain provisions. Doctors are shooting for the same thing they always want: malpractice caps – preferably hard malpractice caps that include economic damages.

Ardis Hoven, M.D., chair of the American Medical Association’s Board of Trustees, told the House panel that the system we have had for hundreds of years is “an ineffective and often unfair mechanism for resolving medical liability claims.”

During questions, Dr. Hoven walked a rather hysterical tightrope, saying doctors practicing in fear of malpractice lawsuits causes expensive tests but she refused to call those tests unnecessary. This is code for “we practice defensive medicine to save ourselves but we can’t really admit that because that would be admitting doctors are putting themselves ahead of their patients so we want to play it both ways and we don’t care that we are contradicting ourselves.” Again, ironically, I think doctors are, by and large, putting patients first. So, this kind of thinking frames all doctors for a crime only a small minority is committing.