Medical Malpractice Reform Measures and Their Effects
Robert B. Leflar
University of Arkansas - School of Law
July 1, 2013
Chest, Vol. 144(1), pp. 306-318 (2013)
University of Arkansas Research Paper No. 14-11
New rules and methods for medical injury dispute resolution have been launched in New Hampshire and New York, and demonstration projects are underway elsewhere. This article describes major medical malpractice reforms undertaken and proposed in recent years. Reforms are classified as (1) liability-limiting initiatives favoring health-care providers; (2) procedural innovations promoted as improving dispute resolution processes, such as patient compensation funds, “sorry” laws, disclosure and early offer laws, health courts, and safe harbor laws; and (3) major conceptual reforms to move liability away from physicians to hospitals or administrative no-fault compensation systems. Empirical evidence about the practical effects of already-implemented reforms, such as damage caps, is reviewed. In light of declining malpractice claim rates, heavier adverse impacts of damage caps on vulnerable groups (people who have severe injuries, who are elderly, and who are unemployed) and repeated findings of state law unconstitutionality, the rationale for nationwide damage caps is questioned. Attention to innovative reform proposals such as patient compensation funds, disclosure and early offer laws, safe harbor laws, enterprise insurance and no-fault compensation systems, is encouraged.
The full-text version of the article, including tables indicating the types of reform measures enacted in each state (and those found unconstitutional), is available by email from the author, or online from the publisher and copyright holder, the American College of Chest Physicians.
Keywords: malpractice, tort reform, patient compensation fund, disclosure and early offer, 'sorry' laws, safe harbor laws, health courts, no-fault compensation, malpractice claim rates, damage caps, non-economic damages
JEL Classification: I18, K13, K41
Date posted: July 27, 2013 ; Last revised: April 19, 2014