Grants for Medical Liability Reform Demonstration Projects

by Holly Hayes

Last month, President Barack Obama announced a plan (discussed here and here) for funding medical malpractice reform projects in order to explore ways to manage medical liability claims. Below is a press release from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) about the grant funding process.

AHRQ Announces Intent to Publish Grant and Contract Solicitations for Patient Safety and Medical Liability Reform Demonstration Projects

Notice Number: NOT-HS-09-013


Key Dates
Release Date: September 17, 2009

Issued by
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) (
Office of Extramural Research, Education, and Priority Populations


On September 9, 2009, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to announce his proposals for what health insurance reform legislation should include. One component of such a plan includes investing in new ways to manage medical liability claims. As directed by President Obama, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will launch a new demonstration initiative that will allow states, localities, and health care systems to test models that meet the goals and commitments to: put patient safety first and work to reduce preventable injuries; foster better communication between doctors and their patients; ensure that patients are fairly and quickly compensated for legitimate medical injuries, while also reducing the incidence of frivolous lawsuits; and reduce escalating liability premiums.

Too many patients experience significant challenges with health care quality and patient safety, and injured patients are not well-served by the current medical liability system. According to the IOM report To Err is Human, between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die each year from medical errors. Patients who are seriously harmed from medical errors often wait too long for compensation.

The correlation between lawsuits and negligent care is weak. A substantial proportion of cases associated with negligent care do not result in lawsuits, and a substantial proportion of lawsuits are not associated with negligent care.

Many experts believe fear of liability is a substantial barrier to the development of transparent and effective patient safety initiatives in hospitals and other settings. The medical community reports serious problems with the medical liability system. Many physicians have experienced sharp increases in premiums for medical malpractice liability insurance. Many doctors believe that medical liability concerns lead to “defensive medicine”, which in turn may contribute to higher health care costs.

With this notice, AHRQ is announcing the Agency’s intention to support a new demonstration initiative. AHRQ will fund demonstration grants and contracts and planning grants to states, localities, and health systems for implementation and evaluation of evidence-based patient safety and medical liability demonstrations.

AHRQ will solicit applications for demonstrations that evaluate approaches to improve focus on improvements in patient safety and reduction in defensive medicine; provide fair and timely compensations to patients and families; reduction in malpractice premiums; and build capacity for systems that incorporate sustainable, reliable provider and practitioner approaches to mitigate risks to patients’ safety in health care settings, including enhanced physician accountability.

Publication and Funding

AHRQ anticipates grant and contract solicitations to be published beginning in October 2009, with funding to commence in early 2010.


Until the solicitations are published, AHRQ cannot provide additional information on their contents. Direct any general comments to:

Kathie Kendrick
Deputy Director
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
540 Gaither Road
Rockville, MD 20850
Telephone: 301-427-1200
E-mail address:

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Holly Hayes is a mediator at Karl Bayer, Dispute Resolution Expert where she focuses on mediation of health care disputes. Holly holds a B.A. from Southern Methodist University and a Masters in Health Administration from Duke University. She can be reached at:

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