The following are some of the medical malpractice falsehoods often promoted by those with a financial interest in so-called medical malpractice tort reforms that harm the most seriously injured victims of medical malpractice by preventing them from being fully compensated for their losses:
1. Medical Liability Costs In The United States Are Crippling The Economy
According to research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2010, medical liability costs totaled about 2.4% ($55.6 billion) of the annual health care spending in the United States in 2008. Of the $55.6 billion, $5.7 billion was paid in medical malpractice claims payments (less than one-quarter of one percent of annual health care spending) while $45.6 billion was incurred in “defensive medicine costs” (which some patient advocates argue involves the practice of medicine in the public’s interest) and more than $4 billion was spent in administrative and other expenses. The lead author of the Harvard study stated, “We shouldn’t forget that despite all its dysfunctions and inefficiencies, the medical liability system does produce social benefits. It makes injured patients whole by providing compensation; it provides other forms of ‘corrective justice’ for injured persons, producing psychological benefits; and it may deter future injuries by signaling to health care providers that they will suffer sanctions if they practice negligently and cause injury.”
2. Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies Are Burdened With High Claims Payouts
On March 13, 2014, the Supreme Court of Florida (“Florida Supreme Court”) held that “the cap on wrongful death noneconomic damages provided in section 766.118, Florida Statutes, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Florida Constitution.” In reaching its decision, the Florida Supreme Court stated, “The most recent records and reports of the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, and the annual reports of medical malpractice insurers, confirm that not only has the number of insurers providing medical malpractice insurance coverage increased … the profits would probably shock most concerned. Indeed, between the years of 2003 and 2010, four insurance companies that offered medical malpractice insurance in Florida cumulatively reported an increase in their net income of more than 4300 percent. With such impressive net income estimates, the insurance industry should pass savings onto Florida physicians in the form of reduced malpractice insurance premiums and it should no longer be necessary to continue punishing those most seriously injured by medical negligence by limiting their noneconomic recovery to a fixed, arbitrary amount.”
3. Medical Malpractice Damages Caps Are Necessary To Lower Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates
The Florida Supreme Court also addressed this fallacy in its written decision: “First, based upon data acquired from 1991 until 2002, the median medical malpractice premiums paid by physicians in three high-risk specialties—internal medicine, general surgery, and obstetrics/gynecology—rose by 48.2 percent in states that have damages caps, but in states without caps, the median annual premium increased at a slower rate—by 35.9 percent [citation omitted] … Second, the study noted that among states with caps on damages, only 10.5 percent (two of nineteen states with caps) experienced static or declining medical malpractice premium rates following the imposition of caps. In contrast, among states without damages caps, 18.7 percent (six of thirty-two states without caps) experienced static or declining medical malpractice premiums.”
4. States Without Caps On Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases Will Experience Loss Of Health Care Providers To States That Limit Damages In Medical Malpractice Cases
Once again, the Florida Supreme Court addressed this falsehood propounded by tort-reformers: “government reports have indicated that the numbers of physicians in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas have increased. For example, in a 2003 report, the United States General Accounting Office found that from 1991 to 2001, Florida’s physician supply per 100,000 people grew from 214 to 237 in metropolitan areas and from 98 to 117 in nonmetropolitan areas, or percentage increases of 10.7 and 19, respectively [citation omitted] … Thus, during this purported [medical malpractice] crisis, the numbers of physicians in Florida were actually increasing, not decreasing … Moreover, for those doctors who are leaving or have left Florida, there was no concrete evidence to demonstrate that high malpractice premiums were the cause of that departure … although medical malpractice premiums in Florida were undoubtably high in 2003, we conclude the Legislature’s determination that ‘the increase in medical malpractice liability insurance rates is forcing physicians to practice medicine without professional liability insurance, to leave Florida, to not perform high-risk procedures, or to retire early from the practice of medicine’ is unsupported.”
If you were harmed as a result of medical malpractice in Florida or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a Florida medical malpractice attorney or a medical malpractice attorney in your state who may investigate your medical negligence claim for you and represent you in a Florida medical malpractice case (or a medical malpractice case in your state), if appropriate.
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