Many of you have no doubt heard the repeated hue and cry of some who complain that doctors are being put out of business because of medical malpractice claims and the increasing malpractice insurance premiums they must pay. The press accounts of patients going without doctors in parts of the country where insurance premiums for doctors are alleged to be the highest are repeated almost daily. Likewise, the tales of the paucity of obstetricians and other high risk specialties, again allegedly due to high malpractice insurance premiums are spread like a virus through the internet and blogosphere.
This week Americans for Insurance Reform released a study which examined the interplay between medical malpractice insurance, claims, insurance company profits and the impact of medical malpractice tort law limits on the cost of health care delivery. This coalition of consumer and public interest groups found that:
1. Medical malpractice premiums make up less than one half of one percent of the nations health care costs. Medical malpractice claims are less than one-fifth of one percent of health care costs.
2. Medical malpractice insurer profits are higher than the rest of the property insurance casualty industry which has been incredibly profitable over the last five years.
3. Medical malpractice premiums, adjusted for inflation, are nearly the lowest in 30 years.
4. Medical malpractice claims, adjusted for inflation, have decreased 45% since 2000.
5. The states that have not implemented so called medical malpractice tort reform have incurred malpractice premium rate changes (increase or decreases) similar to states that have enacted measures that severely restrict the rights of victims to come to court in an effort to decrease costs. Thus, there is no correlation between tort reform and the cost of medical malpractice insurance.
6. The increase in medical malpractice insurance premiums that doctors experienced between 2002 and 2005 were due to falling insurance company profits and drops in investment income. They were unrelated to malpractice claims.
Finally, the AIR concludes:
that there [is] absolutely no reason to further limit the liability of doctors and hospitals, who already benefit from more liability protection for their negligence than any profession in the country. Further, doing so would have almost no impact on overall health care expenditures except that the costs of medical error and hospital-induced injury would remain. TrueRiskF.pdf (July 22, 2009)
So the next time someone tells you the myth that stripping medical malpractice victims of their rights to the courthouse is the way to lower malpractice premiums for doctors, lower health care costs and keep doctors in practice, show them the facts. Your right to the courts is a fundamental American right guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment of our Constitution. Dont let your legislators forget it.