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"Obama's Medical-Malpractice Opportunity"

"In his speech tonight, the president shouldn't forget tort reform." (John Avlon of the Manhattan Institute, City Journal).

P.S. Maybe he was listening. In his speech tonight, Obama made a non-trivial gesture toward critics' views on the subject, acknowledging that defensive medicine drives up costs and "prompting an eruption of applause from Republicans at Wednesday's joint session of Congress." [UPI]. From the same article:

"I know that the (George W.) Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues," Obama said. "It's a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services (Kathleen Sebelius) to move forward on this initiative."

On the politics of the gesture, see Jake Tapper/ABC, news-side WSJ.

Some reactions: Dr. Wes notices language recycled from the med-mal plan championed earlier by then-Sen. Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) My reaction? I think trying a bunch of demonstration projects to see how they work is actually one of the better reform ideas at the federal level, but obviously a great deal depends on how the demonstration projects are picked and designed. Projects might be selected from a list of ideas pre-vetted for acceptability to the litigation lobby, or at worst might even be designed to fail. I agree with Ron Miller: when it comes to actual policy, "Let's just say President Obama is keeping his options open." (bumped Thurs. a.m.)

And more: okay, maybe I gave the President too much credit above on having acknowledged the costs of defensive medicine: his exact wording was "defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs" (emphasis added). Ramesh Ponnuru: "A demonstration project for med-mal reform -- don't we already have one, called Texas?" Carter Wood notes that demonstration projects on med-mal reform have been shot down by Congressional Democrats in recent years. Dan Pero calls the gesture an "olive twig".

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.