Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall introduced a plan Thursday to tweak rules for malpractice trials. The plan is an amendment to the health care bill pending in the Senate. The amendment aims to reduce the cost of malpractice trials by streamlining pretrial court procedures. It does not cap jury awards.

dollars.jpgU.S. Sen. Mark Udall yesterday filed the amendment, seeking $10 million to go to studies nationwide aimed at changing court rules to streamline processing of malpractice cases. The Colorado Democrat’s amendment, which is supported by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver, would establish federal grants for pilot programs administered by nonprofit organizations to streamline the legal process in medical malpractice cases.
The amendment would change the rules regarding the use of expert witnesses in medical malpractice trials to expedite the process. While he did not provide statistics on how much money could be saved by implementing the programs, Udall has said that “significant savings” could be realized through such pilot projects. But the savings would depend on how states tweak their legal system.
The first-term Democrat’s amendment would be a tiny addition to the increasingly complex and costly package that’s at the center of hot debate in the Senate where hopes are fading for a pre-Christmas health-care bill compromise. He says the amendment will save doctors on their malpractice insurance premiums and save consumers cash when they sue their physicians.
The theory behind Udall’s measure is that malpractice cases are overly complicated and, because they can take years to wind their way through the courts, take too much money out of the pockets of doctors, patients and insurance companies. That cash adds up to higher health care bills.
An aide for Udall said the first-term senator will push the bill on its own if it isn’t incorporated through the larger health care bill, which is still awaiting a final vote in the Senate.

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