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New Malpractice Report Contradicts Conventional Wisdom

Posted by medconsumers on July 10, 2009

The Center for Medical Consumers, working together with the New York Public Interest Research Group, has just released a report refuting the basis for the oft-repeated claim that “out of control” medical malpractice lawsuits are contributing to inflation in health care costs.

The report finds that, while liability insurance premiums in New York State have risen over the past several years, there has actually been a drop in medical malpractice payouts made by New York doctors. The report analyzed publicly available data obtained from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank. The report findings include:

  • Despite the overheated claims, doctors are not fleeing the state.  New Yorkers enjoy one of the highest per capita number of doctors in the nation, including those in one of the so-called high-risk specialties.
  • There was a need for a forensic review of the business practices of malpractice insurers to identify why premiums have jumped, while payouts are stagnant.

The report notes that the Data Bank numbers showed an increase in the average size of malpractice payments but that it was consistent with the overall increase in inflation during the period.  The Data Bank does not identify the specialty of the doctor making the payments, but does track the nature of the injury that led to the malpractice payout, and includes both jury verdicts and settlements.

While the report is limited to New York’s experience, the fight over tort “reform” continues to be waged in many other states and at a national level in Washington.  A number of states have succumbed to the propaganda and enacted so-called reforms that limit the right of recovery of victims of medical negligence while doing nothing to make patients safer.  Lobbyists for the physician trade associations use the same specious arguments everywhere:  Malpractice costs are driving doctors out of practice and are negatively impacting the affordability of health care.

Even President Obama appears to have succumbed to unsubstantiated claims that the medical malpractice system need to be changed to favor doctors and other providers.  Consumer advocates, on the other hand, contend that reforms should be about making the health care system safer, not by putting up barriers to those harmed by poor care. Read the new report called Contraindication[1]

Nine consumer advocacy organizations express the reasons for their opposition to the Medical Malpractice Alternatives Act of 2009 in a July 16 letter to Congressman Henry A. Waxman.

Arthur A. Levin, Center for Medical Consumers(c)

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2 Responses to “New Malpractice Report Contradicts Conventional Wisdom”

  1. This is an excellent report and contribution to the current reform discussion. Many thanks for this good work!

    • medconsumers said

      Thanks for comment. This is a tough issue because even otherwise saavy policy makers often buy into the propaganda.

      Art Levin

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