Medical Malpractice Payouts Continue to Fall

According to Public Citizen, a nonprofit watchdog group, medical malpractice lawsuit related costs continue to decline. This is bad news for those who continue to include malpractice reform into the “Soon to be passed, no really, I’m serious this time” health care bill. The report, titled Medical Malpractice Payments Fall Again in 2009, shows the downward trend in malpractice payouts. According to Public Citizen:

  • 2009 had the lowest number of payments in the 20-year history of the National Practitioner Data Bank.
  • Mirroring the Congressional Budget Office’s findings, medical malpractice litigation’s share of overall health care costs dropped to 0.46%.
  • In the last ten years, health care spending rose 83%, while medical malpractice payments actually fell 8%.

Public Citizen also dropped another bombshell that, if true, is just stunning. It said that the hospital rating company HealthGrades estimated in 2004 that over 190,000 deaths in the United States are caused by medical errors. This doubled the famous IOM study’s finding of 99,000 deaths in 1999.

There were 3,537 payments made in medical malpractice wrongful death cases in 2009. This tells us that the problem is not malpractice lawsuits but medical errors. The real way to continue to decrease the costs associated with medical malpractice is to get rid of bad doctors, support the good ones (which is the vast majority), and find new ways to decrease the incidence of medical errors.

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