Expanding Health Care Coverage

Project Title

Designing an Arbitration-Based Medical Injury Dispute Resolution System for New York Health Systems

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Date Awarded

August 17, 2009







The existing system for medical liability litigation increases the cost of providing effective, quality health care in New York State and the nation.

Litigation affects care and costs by encouraging the practice of defensive medicine, and decreases patient access to care, especially in obstetrics. Most patients who suffer an injury during the course of medical care are not compensated, and only a small proportion of injured patients choose to file a claim. For those patients who are injured and do file a claim, the length of time until the claim is resolved averages five years. When patient claims are successful, more than half of the dollars paid are consumed by overhead costs. With support from NYHealth, Common Good identified and tested alternative approaches to litigation, particularly those that would not require State legislation, such as arbitration.

Medical liability litigation affects both health care and cost by encouraging the use of defensive medicine, discouraging open reporting of mistakes, and involving patients and providers in lengthy, costly proceedings. The Common Good Institute, Inc. (Common Good) will develop an innovative arbitration-based program to resolve medical liability cases openly, quickly, and at a significantly reduced cost for all parties involved.

Most patients who are injured during the course of medical care are not compensated. When patients do receive compensation, more than half of the dollars paid are consumed by overhead costs. Claims drain the system of precious resources taking an average of five years to resolve. The looming threat of litigation can also affect patient safety by influencing how doctors provide care and how errors are disclosed and investigated. This grant will allow Common Good to initiate partnerships with New York health providers to plan a pilot medical injury arbitration program in New York State. Under the pilot, medical injuries will be disclosed to patients immediately, and patients will receive an initial offer of compensation. If they decline the initial offer, the dispute will then be submitted to arbitration, an alternative to litigation where individuals pursue dispute resolution in a consensual, private, and adjudicative manner. This hybrid program combining the early disclosure and offer technique with subsequent arbitration will be the first of its kind in the nation. Common Good will design the procedural and implementation details of the pilot program in collaboration with participating health providers and plan to pilot the program in the future.

Please click here to read a July 31, 2009 Washington Post Op-ed about medical malpractice reform by Philip K. Howard, Chairman of Common Good.