Today’s health care reform point of shame: no medical malpractice reform.

A report released last month by the Congressional Budget Office indicated that significant medical malpractice reform could save $54 billion over a ten-year period.

From The Washington Post:

New research shows that legal reforms would not only lower malpractice insurance premiums for medical providers, but would also spur providers to save money by ordering fewer tests and procedures aimed primarily at defending their decisions in court, Douglas Elmendorf, director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, wrote in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

The CBO report gives a political boost to Republican arguments that any health care package should include substantive limits on malpractice lawsuits, rather than the ill-defined state pilot projects Obama has championed.

Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s proposal – also championing state reforms – stipulates that states are not eligible for federal grant money to pay for their reforms if the law limits attorneys’ fees or imposes caps on damages. Which begs the question: why even call it medical liability reform at that point?

The fear of junk lawsuits forces many providers to request unnecessary, expensive tests to shield themselves from possible liability, which raises the cost of care for patients. Insurance policies to cover damages if a doctor is found guilty are expensive – and those costs, in turn, are passed on to patients.

Meaningful health care reform must contain tort reform – both to contain costs and to discourage the litigious culture that has taken over health care.