Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Does Health Reform Change the Malpractice System

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Sep• 24•10

Health Reform (a.k.a. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [PPACA]) provides two small provisions that will affect malpractice costs.  Randall Bobvjerg explains:

As enacted, PPACA contained only two, quite limited malpractice provisions.  Section 10607 authorized malpractice demonstrations by states, and section 10608 extended federal malpractice protections to free clinics’ nonmedical personnel.

The demonstration authority comes with many conditions that are much more limiting than the demonstrations grants already implemented by the Obama administration.  Under PPACA, only states may be funded; funding levels are too low to backstop alternative compensation systems; even those funds are unappropriated; and any patient in a demonstration can, at any time, bring a conventional tort claim instead. The free-clinic provision extends the scope of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The act had previously been modified to cover health professionals‘ volunteered services at free clinics, as well as care at federally qualified community health centers, as though the caregivers were federal employees, such as Veterans Administration physicians. The FTCA does not alter state rules of tort law, which govern any claims made; but claims resolution follows federal processes, any trials occur in federal courts, and payouts come from federal funds.

In short, not much has changed.

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