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Obama's call to reform medical liability laws praised


NEW YORK—The head of a group that advocates setting up special health courts to deal with medical malpractice allegations has welcomed the proposed federal budget’s call to grant states funds to reform their medical malpractice laws.

The Obama administration’s budget calls for the Justice Department to allocate $250 million over four years to “provide incentives for state medical malpractice reform,” without going into detail. It also calls for “a more aggressive effort to reform our medical malpractice system to reduce defensive medicine, promote patient safety and improve patient outcomes.”

The president also sought Republican input “on medical malpractice as part of an overall effort to restrain health costs.”

In a statement Wednesday, Philip K. Howard, chair of New York-based Common Good, called the budget request “a very significant moment for controlling health care costs.” Common Good has long promoted the idea of special courts in which judges with health care expertise would resolve cases involving health care-related liability.

“With this budget item, President Obama is moving beyond partisanship and, in effect, saying that the country can no longer afford the rising health care costs that defensive medicine unnecessarily fuels,” Mr. Howard said in the statement.

The budget represents the second time the president has called for medical malpractice reform this year. In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama said he was willing to work look at ways to rein in frivolous lawsuits involving allegations of medical malpractice.

In a separate but related move Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation that would, among other things, cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases.