A consumer advocacy group known as Public Citizen claims that medical malpractice payments in 2011 were a record low. The group additionally claims that medical malpractice payouts have been decreasing for eight consecutive years. The data provided by the group was meant to demonstrate that malpractice payments are not to blame for the rising cost of health care in the United States.
The data used by the group was gathered from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal government site where substantial information regarding health care professionals is gathered from doctors and hospitals nationwide. According to the research director at Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division, “malpractice victims and ordinary patients end up absorbing significant costs for uncompensated errors.”
As the number of medical malpractice payments has fallen, health care costs have continued to rise. The percentage of health care costs attributed to medical malpractice payments was 0.12 percent, the lowest figure since the National Practitioner Data Bank began gathering the information. The report cited a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicating that roughly 80,000 Medicare patients are killed every year by avoidable medical errors and an additional 620,000 are injured. With fewer than 10,000 medical malpractice payments made in 2010, many victims of preventable medical error went uncompensated.
Source: Insurance Journal, “Malpractice Claims at Record Low, Not Driving Health Costs: Consumer Group,” by Andrew G. Simpson, 13 July 2012