By Mike King
For more than two decades a basic tenet of the Republican Party’s response to the need for health care reform has been to raise the issue of defensive medicine – and the fear doctors have of being sued – as a driving factor in the escalating cost of medical care. The party’s goal has been to enact federal legislation that would impose restrictions on plaintiffs filing malpractice suits and substantially limit the amount of money they could get from juries for non-medical damages if they successfully pressed their cases.
The GOP’s efforts have never gotten far in Congress with conventional wisdom holding that the federal legislative branch is dominated by trial attorneys who have no interest in reducing large awards for damages won for plaintiffs by their barrister colleagues. The best Republicans can probably hope for in the current health care reform bills being debated in Washington is funding for a handful of demonstration projects in the states to test whether some new ideas for how to handle malpractice claims are worth considering on a national level.