The Obama Administration has proposed a trial program aimed at reducing medical malpractice premiums.

Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius said the program, distributed through grants to individual states, will pair efforts to increase patient safety with measures aimed at curbing medical malpractice lawsuits.

Citing a statistic that between 44,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from medical errors, Sebelius said the trial program will put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries. The effort will also aim to expedite malpractice claim resolutions, noting patients who are seriously harmed from medical errors often wait too long for compensation.

The $25 million trial program, set to begin in early 2010, will also study long-term metrics such as the number of physicians choosing to practice in high-risk specialty areas and in specific geographic areas.

In his September 9 address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama indicated an interest in reforming medical malpractice as a way to hold down health care costs.

"Now, I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs," Obama said.  "So I'm proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these ideas. I think it's a good idea, and I'm directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today."

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