I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that medical malpractice litigation hasn’t kept up with anything – the number of errors, the number of doctors, national health care costs, insurance industry profits, inflation … really anything.
Today, Public Citizen issued the latest in its series of great studies examining National Practitioner Data Bank data, finding:
For the seventh straight year, the number of medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors fell, hitting the lowest point on record…
The information, gleaned from the National Practitioner Data Bank, also shows that the cumulative value of malpractice payments in 2010, when adjusted for inflation, was the lowest since the 1990 inception of the databank. In actual dollars, payments last year were the lowest since 1998.
And more specifically,
• Between 2000 and 2010, health care spending rose 90 percent while medical malpractice payments fell 11.9 percent;
• Malpractice payments in 2010 amounted to just 0.13 percent of 1 percent of national health costs, the lowest percentage on record; and
• Total costs for malpractice litigation fell in 2009 to just 0.40 of 1 percent of health costs, the lowest level since the databank’s inception.
Most medical malpractice awards compensate for death, catastrophic harms or serious permanent injuries. Also, many studies have shown that the precipitous decline in litigation has not been accompanied by a reduction in medical errors, the analysis pointed out.
Boy I’ll say, especially in light of an article in the April 2011 edition of Health Affairs, which found that medical errors occur in one-third of hospital admissions, as much as ten times more common than previously estimated. Meanwhile, according to the National Center for State Courts, in seven states researchers examined, there was a 15 percent decrease in medical malpractice filings from 1999 to 2008. (Keep reading here.)
In fact, the only thing lower than the rate of medical malpractice lawsuits right now is the rate of medical malpractice premium hikes. As Americans for Insurance Reform reported, “Thirty years of inflation-adjusted data show that medical malpractice premiums are the lowest they have been in this entire period.” Meanwhile, insurance industry profits are through the roof.
I guess for some, enough is never enough.