The Law Offices of John Phebus

U.S. House attempts to redefine 'standard of care'

Arizona readers of the New York Times might have noticed an article about an attempt in the U.S. House to do the bidding of physicians and their insurance companies. The House passed a bill with a provision tucked quietly into it that would protect doctors from being held to a standard of care used in Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

Why would doctors and their insurers want to avoid being held to that standard of care? If you guessed that it has to do with saving money and avoiding responsibility in cases of medical malpractice, you nailed it.

The Times notes that the "provision is nearly identical to legislative language recommended by doctors and their insurance companies." The physicians and insurers hope to protect themselves from the measurements of care the government is taking when it pays Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Act care providers. Those measurements help the government know which doctors and hospitals give good, standard care and which ones need to improve their services.

Insurance companies fear that if patients harmed by negligence have access to the measurement data, they and their medical malpractice attorneys would be able to tell who is delivering substandard care. That would, in turn, mean that negligent doctors and hospitals could be held financially responsible for the damage they do to innocent patients.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the bill as it moves through the system. Will it pass the Senate and receive President Obama's signature and become law?

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