Thursday, May 25, 2006

National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation (MEDiC) Bill

In this week's New England Journal of Medicine, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have a perspective piece describing the latest US effort in patient safety reform, the National Medical Error Disclosure and Compension Bill (S.1784).

This proposed legislation (currently in committee in the Senate, which will decide if the bill is sent to the Senate floor) would amend the Public Health Service Act and lead to the creation of an office in the DHHS dedicated to patient safety and healthcare quality, including funding the creation of a nationl patient safety database, grant projects, and additional research with a patient safety focus.

The legislation is also intended to address physician liability issues and rising insurance costs by implementing model programs for error disclosure and compensation negotiation. Clinton and Obama also note, "Participating insurance companies and health care providers would be required to apply a percentage of the savings they achieve from lowered administrative and legal costs to the reduction of premiums for physicians and toward initiatives to improve patient safety and reduce medical errors."

The story is accompanied by an audio interview with Richard Boothman, chief risk officer managing a model program at the University of Michigan Health System mentioned in the Clinton and Obama article.

Update: A recent related overview article from Critical Care Medicine discussing the disclosure of medical errors in the intensive care unit setting, including an example scenario describing a positive interaction associated with frank and open communication between a physician and a patient after a medical error.

Erin Brockovich takes role as plaintiff in Medicare suits, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2006: 7 lawsuits filed alleging that Medicare has been inappropriately billed for procedures and other care resulting from medical errors. The article reports, "Her seven lawsuits, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, allege that healthcare companies are charging Medicare, the federally funded health plan for seniors, to treat illnesses they helped cause by medical error or neglect. The lawsuits do not involve specific allegations of wrongdoing but seek instead to find evidence of such treatments, arguing that Medicare should be reimbursed."

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