Posted by Bill Sandweg on 06 February 2017.
Last week I wrote about Republican plans to gut medical malpractice cases under the guise of reforming health care. They claim that there is a crisis and that frivolous cases are driving up the costs of malpractice insurance and forcing doctors out of practice. As is often the case when it comes to Republicans speaking about medical malpractice, the truth is not even in the same zip code as their claims.
Here is a link to a story about Republican claims of a crisis and the actual facts about malpractice insurance and claims. According to the largest malpractice insurance company in the nation, doctors are paying less today for malpractice insurance than they were in 2001, despite inflation which has driven up the cost of almost everything else. Furthermore, the number of malpractice claims has dropped by half since 2003. This is a crisis? What would they call it if things were actually bad for doctors and their insurers?
Things are going so well for doctors and their insurers because juries have been persuaded that most malpractice suits are frivolous and that they drive up health care costs. It is very hard to get a jury to find in favor of a patient in a medical malpractice case. As a result, experienced lawyers have become even more selective in the cases they are able to take. They are filing fewer cases but the ones they are filing are the most meritorious with the most significant injuries. The sad result of this greater selectivity is that many people injured by medical negligence must be turned away because their injuries are not serious enough or they have too many other complicating health conditions.
Those who study issues relating to health care and the law (these are not lawyers) point out that malpractice is a leading cause of death and increased medical costs in this country yet the Republicans don’t address patient safety at all in their proposals to replace the Affordable Care Act. They see an opportunity to slip the malpractice limitations they have wanted for years into the bills which are clearly coming to repeal and replace the ACA. They hope that the false promise of “hundreds of billions of dollars” of savings will get the job done for them. Don’t fall for it. Call your Congressperson and your Senator and tell them not to take away your rights.