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Medical Malpractice Reform

On June 9, 2009, the Foundation hosted Dr. Mello, a national expert on medical malpractice and Professor of Law and Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, to discuss reform options and lessons learned from the success and failure of reform in other states. Although Dr. Mello cautioned that no silver bullet solution has been identified to solve the costly and challenging problems of the existing system in New York State and the nation, she remained hopeful that innovative strategies supported by evidence will lead to positive reform.

She pointed out the modest results of instituting damage caps on awards, but also noted the polarizing effect this strategy has had on the debate with stakeholders landing solidly on either side. There are some clear advantages to dedicating courts to health cases such as having highly qualified judges familiar with health issues who can effectively mediate, but modifying the court system is an arduous process and more data is needed to demonstrate the effectiveness. Other hospitals have tried an administrative system that addresses possible cases as soon as they occur and avoids the lengthy litigation process. They can improve decision-making by using guidelines that indicate damage limits in different categories and provide lists of avoidable clinical mistakes. Federal health reform is another possible avenue for change on this issue, and including medical liability reform in a universal coverage bill could encourage support from hospitals and physicians. Collecting more data on promising pilot programs and strategizing options for federal medical liability reform are the next priorities for the medical malpractice problem.

Important leaders in the New York State medical malpractice policy debate attended the conversation including representatives from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), the State Departments of Health and Insurance, and various insurance providers including Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI) and FOJP Service Corporation.

Learn more about some of these initiatives:

New York State Unified Court System
Resolving Medical Malpractice Cases with Judge-Directed Negotiation: Upstate Expansion

Greater New York Hospital Association Foundation
Promoting a Medical Malpractice Early Settlement Model

The Common Good Institute, Inc.
Designing an Arbitration-Based Medical Injury Dispute Resolution System for New York Health Systems

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