Context for Medical Malpractice Claims

The total cost of medical litigation and malpractice insurance premiums has fallen to an all-time low according to a new Public Citizen report.

Medical malpractice litigation’s share of overall health care costs has fallen to less than 0.6 percent. This low number is misleadingly high: it includes insurance companies’ overhead and profit and the cost of hiring malpractice lawyers to defend these claims. Actual medical malpractice payments – money that goes in the hands of the victims and, yes, their malpractice lawyers, have fallen to less than 0.2 percent of all health costs—the lowest level on record.

Here is the most amazing malpractice statistic I’ve heard in a while: between three and seven Americans die from medical errors for every individual who receives a payment for a malpractice claim. To be fair, notwithstanding the oft-cited IOM report, there is no actual way to know just how many deaths are caused by medical errors, just as there is no verifiable way to find out the cost of defensive medicine. But let’s say it is not 7 to 1 but 1 to 1. Given that only a small minority of medical malpractice claims are wrongful death cases, it is an incredible statistic that underscores the fact that most medical malpractice that causes serious injury or death goes unchallenged by anyone.

  • Daily Kos (post on Public Citizen report
  • Defensive Medicine and the Congressional Budget Office
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