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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, it is my pleasure to join Senator Clinton to introduce legislation that will help us all find common ground on the debate over patient safety and medical malpractice claims.

Today, medical error is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, these tragic mistakes cost the lives of up to 98,000 Americans. This is unacceptable in America, and we must do more to ensure that every patient gets the right care, at the right time, in the right way.

The debate in Washington over this issue has been centered on caps and lawsuits. But across America, hospitals and medical providers are proving that there's a better way to protect patients and doctors, all while raising the quality of our care and lowering its cost.

From the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota to the VA hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, doctors and administrators aren't trying to cover up medical errors--They're trying to admit them. Instead of closing ranks and keeping the patient in the dark, they're investigating potential errors, apologizing if mistakes have been made, and offering a reasonable settlement that keeps the case out of court.

This program is often known as ``Sorry Works,'' and it's led to some amazing results. When patients are treated with respect and told the truth, they sue less. More are actually compensated for their injuries, but medical providers pay less because the reward is the result of a settlement, not an expensive lawsuit. Malpractice costs for doctors go down, and health care professionals actually learn from their mistakes so they're not repeated and lives are saved.

At the VA hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, this program has reduced the average settlement to $16,000, compared with $98,000 nationwide. This ranked in the lowest quartile of all VA facilities for malpractice payouts. At the University of Michigan's hospital system, this program helped them cut their lawsuits in half and save up to $2 million in defense litigation.

The bill we're introducing today builds on these hopeful results and incorporates them into a national program. The National Medical Error Disclosure and Compensation Act, or MEDiC Act, will help reduce medical error rates and medical malpractice costs by opening the lines of communication between doctors and patients--encouraging honesty and accountability in the process.

The bill will also set up a National Patient Safety Database, which will be used to determine best practices in preventing medical errors, improving patient safety, and increasing accountability in the healthcare system.

We expect participants to see a cost savings, and we will require them to reinvest a portion of these savings into patient quality measures that will reduce medical errors. This bill also requires that some of these savings are passed along to providers in the form of lower malpractice insurance premiums.

Certainly, these are lofty goals. But what Senator Clinton and I hope to do with this legislation is promote the type of creative thinking that will be required if this country is going to overcome some of the gridlock in the healthcare debate. The MEDiC Act of 2005 brings together some of the best ideas currently out there, and I hope my colleagues in the Senate will work with Senator Clinton and me to put these ideas in action.

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