In another display of bipartisan healthcare reform, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill Monday that creates a process in which adverse healthcare incidents can be resolved (PDF)
without patients and providers going to court.
The bill was approved by a 26-3 vote in the state Senate on March 5, and was then passed 55-1 by the state House of Representatives on March 12.
“To really improve the system and patient safety, healthcare providers and patients need to have open, frank discussions about the patient's care,” Dr. William “Bud” Pierce, president of the Oregon Medical Association, said in news release (PDF)
. “While SB 483-A is not liability reform in the traditional sense, it is a big step in the right direction and has tremendous potential to improve the practice environment and patient safety in Oregon while providing an alternative to the expensive and protracted court process that currently serves neither patients nor physicians.”
In the release, Pierce cited similar successful programs
in place in Illinois and Michigan as well as the Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Ore.
A summary on the Oregon Legislature website
notes that prison inmates are exempt from the new law and, even if patients participate in the disclose-and-offer process, it “does not preclude negligence claim in court.”
“This bill will help resolve many serious medical events before they go to court by allowing healthcare providers and patients to have early discussions in a confidential setting,” Kitzhaber, a former emergency medicine physician, said in a news release
. “I committed last year to bring a proposal to the Legislature to ensure that our medical liability system fits within our shared vision of health system transformation, and I appreciate the Legislature supporting this effort.”
The legislative summary noted that representatives from the OMA and the Oregon Trial Lawyer Association convened an advisory group last May and submitted a draft proposal for a discussion and resolution process the next month. Legislation passed last year created the Patient Safety and Defensive Medicine Task Force, which carried on the work of the advisory group that eventually led to the bill signed by the governor.
“This bill is not a perfect solution for medical liability,” Rep. Jason Conger, a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill
, said in a news release. “Nobody I know has claimed it is. But it is a first step. And it will, I hope, make progress toward achieving its objectives—increase patient safety, reduce costs and decrease defensive medicine.”
Last year, Oregon passed bipartisan legislation to reform the state Medicaid system
. The state House at the time was split 30-30 between Democrats and Republicans, and the measure passed by a 53-7 vote.