As previewed this morning in The New York Times, President Barack Obama is signaling today that he is open to some compromise with doctors about limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.
Obama, in an appearance before the American Medical Association in Chicago, included a line in his prepared remarks that “we need to explore a range of ideas” on the subject. Any proposal is likely to draw scrutiny — or, depending on the details, outright hostility — from the plaintiffs’ bar.
Most of the speech is about other ways to reduce the cost of health care. Here’s the relevant section from Obama's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
Now, I recognize that it will be hard to make some of these changes if doctors feel like they are constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of lawsuits. Some doctors may feel the need to order more tests and treatments to avoid being legally vulnerable. That’s a real issue. And while I’m not advocating caps on malpractice awards which I believe can be unfair to people who’ve been wrongfully harmed, I do think we need to explore a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines. That’s how we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine reinforcing our current system of more treatment rather than better care.
As the Times noted, one possible Obama proposal would allow doctors to defend themselves if they followed professional practice guidelines.