State of the Union: Malpractice reform possible, but health reform will stand

by Grant Huang on Jan 26, 2011
Image from www.whitehouse.govThere weren't any big surprises where health care and Medicare were concerned during the hour-long State of the Union address last night. President Obama made it clear that the health reform law will not be repealed, only tweaked for improvement. He also hinted again at the possibility of his support for malpractice reform as a way to bring down costs.

"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," he said. It was a remark that drew Republican applause, but did not strengthen earlier committments he made to the idea of malpractice reform. Beyond that sentence, Obama did not delve deeper into the topic.

He stood firmly by the health reform law, which Republicans have attempted to repeal via a House bill that is doomed to fail in the Senate. Obama said he was open to improving the law in a way that would improve care or make it more affordable. He again fingered Medicare and Medicaid as the biggest drivers of deficit.

These programs "are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit," he said. "The health insurance law we passed last year will slow these rising costs, which is part of the reason that nonpartisan economists have said that repealing the health care law would add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit."

Overall, Obama was short on specifics. It remains to be seen whether Republicans will seize upon the malpractice remark to launch a serious malpractice reform bill. You can find a full transcript of President Obama's address at the White House homepage.

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