The cost of health care in the United States is unprecedented on a global scale. Among the most commonly cited reasons for the expense of health care here is the cost of medical malpractice insurance. Politicians and many in the medical industry like to point the finger at medical malpractice claims and insurance necessary to protect against them as the reason care is so expensive here. The numbers do not support this argument.
A report created by Public Citizen identifies several facts that are inconsistent with the narrative that medical malpractice claims are a significant driver of medical costs. The report shows that the number of malpractice claims that resulted in payment dropped from almost 17,000 in 2003 to fewer than 10,000 in 2011. The total amount paid in claims dropped by 29 percent over the same time period. In most states, medical malpractice insurance has become less expensive for doctors since 2003, even while health care costs were increasing rapidly.
Aside from insurance costs, some people claim that defensive medicine, fueled by the fear of lawsuits, is the cause of rising costs. The dramatic drop in the total number of medical malpractice claims being paid would seem to argue against a continued increase in defensive medicine. In addition, many expensive tests require doctors to get pre-approval from insurance companies. A test must be justified by the doctor before insurance will pay for it.
Medical malpractice expenses make up less than 1 percent of the cost of health care. The real cost of medical malpractice is in the patients and families who are damaged by negligent care.
Source: Huffington Post, “It Ain’t the Lawyers: Medical Malpractice Costs Have Been Dropping,” by David Belk, 1 November 2013