Leeseberg & Valentine

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Don't Believe the Myth: Malpractice Rates Are Not Going Up

"The high costs of healthcare and malpractice premiums are a result of frivolous lawsuits filed against us." This is a common refrain from the Ohio State Medical Association and Ohio Hospital Association, but this notion is essentially nonsense. Over the last 25 years, claims paid out from medical malpractice lawsuits have declined by over half. This is a direct result of the "tort reform" effort that has rendered it extremely difficult to justify bringing a medical claim against a doctor, especially if the injured patient has not suffered a permanent, disabling, and/or catastrophic injury. Despite consistently limiting a patient's access to justice in the courts his or her injuries, the health insurance industry continues to point the finger at lawsuits as being the problem.

A recent study shows that the overall rate of payments on medical malpractice claims on behalf of all US physicians declined by 55.7%, or 20.1 claims per 1,000 physicians in 1992 to 8.9 per 1,000 physicians in 2014. This decrease varies by specialty, but every specialty did at least see some decrease in the amount of paid claims against them. The largest decrease was a 75.8% for pediatricians, while cardiologists saw the smallest decline at 13.5%.

Consistent with this decrease in claims, the median amount paid per claim went up. This is not surprising as it is no longer practical for medical malpractice lawyers to bring cases unless there is a significant injury, which warrants a significant settlement or verdict. Removing from the equation cases where the patient suffered only minor injuries, the median amount paid would naturally increase.

All of this information is to say that medical malpractice lawsuits are not the root cause of healthcare costs going up. Sure, they might contribute to the bottom line, but when healthcare costs continue to rise and malpractice lawsuits continue to decline, simple logic suggests there are other more significant factors at play. Despite the obvious, the healthcare industry continues to blame lawsuits. Wouldn't it be more efficient to actually identify the problem rather than use lawsuits as a scapegoat? Then again, that business model may not be as profitable.

If you or a love one has suffered an injury at the hands of a medical provider, please contact us to see if we can be of assistance. Despite the healthcare industry's best efforts, we are still fighting to make sure victims of medical malpractice are getting the justice they deserve.

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