Medical Malpractice Crisis
Let’s deal directly with the Truth about medical malpractice. Recently,
a Republican led, President Bush supported, bill was narrowly defeated
in Congress. Proponents of that Bill, H.R. 4600, would like you to believe
that there are too many lawsuits in the medical malpractice field. But
the real problem with medical malpractice is
medical malpractice. Every year, thousands of patients are killed or seriously injured by
incompetent doctors and dangerously defective medical products.
Let’s Look at the Facts:
- Bad doctors aren’t stopped from practicing. Despite the high rate
of malpractice, fewer than 3,000 doctors were disciplined in 1999 by State
Medical Boards according to the Public Citizen Health Research Group.
The Group also found that fewer than one-third of the country’s
disciplined doctors are prevented from practicing by the State Medical
Boards and federal agencies charged with monitoring them. Public Citizen,
Public Citizen’s Health Research Group Ranking of State Medical
Board’s Serious Disciplinary Actions in 1999, April 2000. Public
Citizen, Health Group Names 16,638 Questionable Doctors.
- Medical malpractice premiums comprise only 0.59% of national healthcare
costs, according to the Consumer Federation of America. Eliminating medical
malpractice lawsuits in total would do little to contain healthcare costs.
Malpractice Suits Not Driving Medical Costs Up, Says Group, the New Orleans
Times – Picayune, May 5, 1999, at E-3.
- Malpractice occurs too frequently in America. A 1999 Institute of Medicine
study estimated that medical errors cause many as 98,000 deaths a year.
That is about 268 deaths a day. The National Academy of Sciences in Washington,
DC says that about three out of every 100 people admitted to hospitals
suffer an “adverse event”. An “adverse event”
is defined as a health problem accidentally caused by doctors, nurses,
pharmacists, and other medical personnel. Howard Isenstein, One More Time:
Key Legislators Join Effort to Reduce Medical Errors, Mod. Physician,
July 1, 2000 at 28. Michael Woods, At the Hospital, Ask Questions: It’s
the Informed Patient’s Way to Avoid Errors, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
June 20, 2000 at D-4.
- Medical malpractice is actually one of the most profitable lines of insurance
nationwide. Losses paid by insurers in 1993 for medical negligence amounted
to only 33¢ out of every $100 of healthcare spending, according to
insurance monitor A.M. Best. Taken from a specialty data base prepared
by A.M. Best (1995). See also National Association of Insurance Commissioners,
Report on Profitability 1997 (1999) noting that malpractice insurance
profits are more than double property/casualty insurance profits.
- Medical malpractice claims do not clog our courts. Only 7% of all court
claims in 1992 involved medical malpractice, according to the National
Center for State Courts. Since 1987, malpractice claims have remained
stable at about 7.7 claims per 100 physicians. Larry S. Stewart, Damage
Caps Add to Pain and Suffering, incite on the news, November 7, 1994,
at 20. David P. Olson, Measuring the Cost of Defensive Medicine, www.humana.com/providers/defensive.php4
- So-called “defensive medicine” is not a problem. Insurers say
that doctors, driven by fear of litigation, give too many tests and services
to patients. But in the age of managed care, the idea that doctors give
“too much care” is ridiculous. The problem is that the system
now dispenses too little care. That’s why Congress had to pass legislation
outlining one-day “drive-through deliveries” of babies –
HMO’s wouldn’t give enough care without being ordered to do
so. Newborns & Mothers’ Health Protection Act of 1996, Pub.L
Data recently released by two consumers groups shows that California’s
twenty-two year experience with the nation’s most draconian limits
on the rights of medical malpractice victims has failed to slow premium
increases for doctors and hospitals. In fact, over the last decade, the
average malpractice premium in California has grown in a more quickly
than it has in the nation overall.
The California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and New
York-based Center for Justice and Democracy hired nationally recognized
actuary J. Robert Hunter, former Texas Insurance Commissioner and Federal
Insurance Administrator under Ford and Carter, to compare national malpractice
premium trends to those in California. Hunter found that from 1991 to
2000, malpractice premiums in California have stayed close to national
The 2000 average premium per doctor in California was only 8.2% below that
of the nation ($7,200.61 versus $7,843.75) while the average malpractice
premium in California between 1991 and 2000 actually grew more quickly
(3.5%), than it did in the nation overall (1.9%). According to Hunter,
“there is not much difference in the rates or the rate of change
between California and the nation based on the latest decade of experience.”
The bottom line – California – patients have been denied adequate
compensation and representation for their injuries, and California doctors
have seen almost no premium savings. Only the insurers have gotten rich
in the good times. The sad truth is that insurance carriers lost money
through imprudent investments (including ENRON), and manipulate doctors’
premiums to cause a “malpractice insurance crisis”.
To learn more about your rights, contact the San Francisco personal injury
lawyers at Scarlett Law Group for a free consultation.
You can reach us at (415) 688-2176.