Jan. 5, 2011

In Calling for Medical Liability Measure, House Republicans Ignore Real Problem

Statement of Christine Hines, Civil Justice Counsel, Public Citizen

In a draft resolution issued Tuesday, the incoming House Republican leadership directed committees to approve legislation to replace the health care law, including a mandate to “reform the medical liability system.”

Predictably, the new Republican majority has resorted to its oft-repeated mantra of calling for a federal law to restrict American patients’ rights as a way to cut health care spending. In doing so, the majority ignores evidence that such measures would not bring significant savings and in fact would carry substantial costs. It also ignores the real problem-a malpractice epidemic that kills and injures millions of Americans and costs our health care system billions of dollars each year.

The House Republican answer is for the government to continue shelling out billions to cover the costs of unnecessary and preventable medical errors, while the offenders are let off the hook and citizens suffer.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, eliminating avoidable medical errors could potentially save $44 billion over 10 years. We call on the new Republican majority to try something different for a change. If you really want to cut health care spending, fix the patient safety crisis.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.