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Obama willing to look at medical malpractice liability reform

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WASHINGTON—During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama said his administration is willing to look at reform of the medical malpractice liability system.

Medical malpractice liability reform went largely unaddressed in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that became U.S. law last year. But in Tuesday’s address, the president said, “I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year—medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

The president’s remarks came shortly after a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a medical malpractice reform bill that would, among other things, cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000.

The American Medical Assn. said it “applauds the president’s willingness to consider medical liability reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.” In a statement, the AMA called the issue “critical” since “every American pays the price for high medical liability costs.”

President Obama also said that he is willing to work with those who have ideas about improving the health care law to improve the quality of care and make it more affordable.

“We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses,” the president said of PPACA’s requirement that employers furnish Internal Revenue Service Form 1099 if they do more than $600 with a corporate vendor.

However, the president made it clear that he would not accept major changes to the health care reform law.

“What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” President Obama said.