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Report: Malpractice Claims Do Not Lead to Higher Health Care Costs

During the debate before the Affordable Care Act was passed, one of the main topics of discussion was the rising cost of health care in America and what to do about it. One "theory" put forth was that medical malpractice lawsuits and the payouts associated with them were a driving force behind the rising costs.

But is that true? Not according to new research.

Public Citizen, a consumer group, used available data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (obtainable from the federal government) and reports that in 2011 medical malpractice claims reached a new low, in contrast to the continued rise in health care costs.

As reported by Insurance Journal, Public Citizen's report specifically found that for 2011:

  • Number of medical malpractice payments fell for the eighth consecutive year, reaching a record low of just over 9,700 payments
  • Actual value of payments made fell for the eighth consecutive year, and the inflation-adjusted value paid out was the lowest on record, approximately $3.2 billion
  • The average amount paid per claim fell to approximately $327,000
  • Payments were anything but "frivolous," as four-fifths of all medical malpractice payouts were in cases of death, catastrophic or serious-permanent injury

Further, the report found that all of these declines in medical malpractice payout occurred amid continued rises in health care costs. And, the report is quick to note that there is no evidence that the decline in medical malpractice costs were a result of safer health care. In fact, the opposite may be true, as the report notes that many injured patients go uncompensated for their injuries and are left to shoulder the burden of medical malpractice costs themselves.

A doctor or nurse's negligence can lead to longer recover times, additional procedures and recovery time, and added pain and suffering; in fact, the effects of medical negligence can last a lifetime. If you've been injured by the hands of someone who was supposed to heal you, do not be deterred by the talking heads and pundits that who claim medical malpractice claims are to blame for the rise in health care costs, and advocate for your own health and recovery by speaking with a medical malpractice attorney.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Malpractice Claims at Record Low, Not Driving Health Costs: Consumer Group" Andrew G. Simpson, July 13, 2012

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