According to a new report from Public Citizen, a consumer and public policy watchdog group, payments for medical malpractice lawsuits are at an all-time low and have fallen steadily throughout most of the last decade, contrary to popular belief.
Public Citizen released the medical malpractice report last week in advance of Obama's health care summit, indicating that medical malpractice litigation has fallen steadily throughout most of the last decade and the entire cost of medical liability is only 0.6% to 1.3% of the cost of national health care.
Utilizing data from the National Practitioner Data Bank and other sources, the report contends that the real dollar impact of litigation is being blown out of proportion by health care reform opponents seeking political points and takes away from changes that would actually make medical care safer and better for patients.
In addition to the database, Public Citizen analyzed the results of about seven years of Texas tort reform laws, the strictest in the nation. Public Citizen's findings suggest that the cost of health care in Texas skyrocket 50% faster than the national average after the reforms were enacted, and Texas still has the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation.
"Setting the clear moral implications aside, lawmakers who think medical malpractice litigation is a place to look for significant cost savings are simply mistaken. Medical malpractice litigation is already rare," the report states. "Most of the compensation goes to seriously injured people who need lifelong medical care as a result of their injuries or to the families of patients who died due to negligence."
The results of the data from the national database indicate that the number of medical malpractice payments on behalf of doctors in 2008 was the lowest it's been since reliable records were made available in 1991. Payments for the first three quarters of 2009 were lower than those of 2008, suggesting that 2009's numbers would be even lower. Fourth-quarter data was unavailable.
Public Citizen's report, and previous reports released by the organization, urge lawmakers to address the quality of health care in the country, thus reducing the need for medical malpractice lawsuits and saving lives.
"The best course is clear," the report concludes. "Policymakers from both parties should set their partisan instincts aside and reduce patients' needs to seek redress instead of limiting their rights to it."