Bipartisan Bills Introduced in Congress
To Enable Funding of Special Health Courts
WASHINGTON, May 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Common Good, the
nonpartisan legal reform coalition, announced today that identical bipartisan
bills have been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of
Representatives that would enable states to create special health courts on a
pilot project basis. Advancing an idea developed by Common Good and researchers
from the Harvard School of Public Health, the bills authorize funding for
states to create alternative administrative health systems, including health
courts, on a pilot project basis.
The Senate bill was introduced by Senators Michael Enzi
(R-WY) and Max Baucus (D-MT). The House bill was introduced by Representatives
Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Mac Thornberry (R-TX).
Known as the Fair and Reliable Medical Justice Act, the
bills are backed by a broad coalition of prominent organizations in patient
safety, health care, and public policy, including:
AARP also supports this initiative. John Rother, Policy
Director for AARP said, "Testing of alternatives to the current tort system
that promote faster and fairer compensation to injured patients and that also
promote quality improvement is a necessary part of the movement to improve the
performance of our healthcare system."
The bills would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Health
and Human Services to award up to 10 demonstration grants to states for the
development, implementation and evaluation of alternatives to current tort
litigation for resolving disputes over medical injuries. The bills' purpose is
to restore fairness and reliability to the medical justice system by fostering
such alternatives. The alternatives could include the creation of special
health courts that would expedite medical injury cases, provide prompt and
reasonable compensation to injured patients, and facilitate enhancements in
patient safety. The bills differ from an earlier version by specifying that all
pilot projects shall provide for opt-out or voluntary withdrawal.
The hallmark of health courts would be full-time judges
with health care expertise, whose sole focus would be on addressing medical
malpractice cases. Special health courts would be devoted to addressing health
care issues, much as existing specialized courts focus on other areas of law:
admiralty courts, tax courts, drug courts, bankruptcy courts, and
administrative tribunals in areas ranging from workers' compensation to vaccine
liability. Special health courts would ensure that patients injured by mistakes
would be reliably compensated, without having to pay one third or more to
"Senators Enzi and Baucus and Congressmen Cooper and
Thornberry are leading the way to restoring reliability to medical justice in
America," said Philip K. Howard, Chair of Common Good. "Reliable justice is
essential to controlling skyrocketing costs and restoring a culture of
openness. Special health courts offer justice reliable for patients and doctors
alike, providing speedier and more equitable compensation for medical errors
and affirmative rulings to improve patient safety and judicial
"Medical errors resulted in the death of my husband and a
serious injury to my son," said Susan E. Sheridan, Co-Founder and President,
Consumers Advancing Patient Safety. "I believe that reforming the medical
liability system is a crucial foundation for efforts to enhance quality of care
in the American health care system, and the legislation introduced by Senator
Enzi and Senator Baucus is a very positive step."
The current system works poorly for everyone. Patients
with valid claims wait years for settlement. Doctors who did nothing wrong
litigate for years with the risk of a ruinous verdict hanging over their heads.
This unfairness leads to nearly universal distrust of justice, undermining
candor and good judgment.
Common Good - with support from the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation - is working in collaboration with faculty members from the Harvard
School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, the University of Denver's
Sturm College of Law, and Yale Law School to perform outreach and
consensus-building needed for state demonstration projects.
Copies of the bills and additional information on health
courts are available on Common Good's web site at http://www.cgood.org/.
Common Good is a nonpartisan legal reform coalition
dedicated to restoring common sense to American law. Its board is composed of
leaders in a wide range of fields: former government officials, including
Howard Baker, Bill Bradley, Griffin Bell, Newt Gingrich, Eric Holder, George
McGovern, Diane Ravitch, Alan Simpson, and Richard Thornburgh; current and
former university presidents, including Tom Kean, George Rupp, and John Silber,
and numerous other leaders in education, health care, law, business and public
policy. The Chair of Common Good is Philip K. Howard, a lawyer and author of
The Death of Common Sense and The Collapse of the Common Good.
CONTACT: Danielle Rhoades, or Jessie duPont, of Goodman