Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Declining, Not Responsible For Rising Healthcare Costs: Report

A new report indicates that payments for medical malpractice lawsuits are at the lowest levels in history, yet cases brought by injured patients continue to be used as a “scapegoat” in the health care debate. 

The consumer watchdog group Public Citizen issued a report on February 28, “The Medical Malpractice Scapegoat” (PDF), which found that 2015 marked an all-time low for the number of malpractice payments made by U.S. doctors, and that the actual overall amounts paid were at historic lows as well.

The group released the report as Republican lawmakers in Congress push for new tort reform measures, which seek to limit the amount that patients can recover after suffering deadly or debilitating injuries due to preventable medical mistakes.

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“Proposals to shield providers from liability are nothing but a giveaway to industry,” Lisa Gilbert, the director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said in a press release. “Members supporting this bill would further harm those who are suffering from doctors’ mistakes and abandon the GOP’s supposedly unwavering commitment to state’s rights.”

Proponents of the limits claim that medical malpractice litigation is a major contributor to healthcare costs. However, the study’s findings indicate that they have little, if any, effect.

According to the report’s findings, medical malpractice payments in 2015, the most recent full year of data available, accounted for only one-tenth of one percent of all healthcare costs. In addition. the number of malpractice payments doled out by doctors was the lowest on record.

The study also found that medical liability insurance premium payments are at a historic low as well, reaching their lowest levels since at least 2003, and only accounted for 0.3% of health care costs in 2015.

The report notes that medical mistakes remain the third leading cause of death in the United States, and that only about two to three percent of patients who suffer from medical malpractice actually pursue a lawsuit.

“An abundance of evidence disproves arguments that medical malpractice litigation is to blame for rising healthcare costs,” the report concludes. “Avoidable tragedies in care, regardless of whether they prompt litigation, however, remain unacceptably high. Policymakers should concentrate on policies to address the epidemic of injuries and fatalities due to medical errors and ignore calls to limit providers’ accountability.”


  • AtlasMarch 6, 2017 at 6:17 pm

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