The myth continues. Proponents of tort reform efforts continue to argue that laws need to be passed to limit the rights of those hurt by medical errors in order to lower payouts, save insurance premium costs for doctors, and lower healthcare costs.
Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm knows that these claims are plain wrong. Unfortunately, misinformation continues to spread, allowing certain legislative proposals to advance which would do nothing by harm those hurt by negligence and weaken the patient safety system only to benefit insurance companies and powerful medical interests.
Spreading the Truth
When talking about medical malpractice insurance premiums and payouts, the first step is the understand what the trends actually are. For example, evidence exists which shows whether premiums have or have not increased. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, for example, recently released the latest information on the industry, including data on payouts, premiums collected, and other incurred expenses. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers know that the data shows clearly that claims by tort-reforms are wrong.
Specifically, the database shows that medical malpractice payouts have declined very sharply over the past decade. In 2003 the total payout rate was at $8.5 billion-last year it was about $3.6 billion. That represents a 56% decrease in about 8 years. Similarly, costs incurred by doctors and hospitals in the form of malpractice premiums are similarly dropping. The total payments decreased from about $12.1 billion in 2006 to $10.2 billion today. This decline is less steep that they payouts. This suggests that insurance companies are using the decreased payouts mostly to pad their own profits.
All of this data in the NAIC database is reinforced form information from other sources. For example, the National Practitioner Data Bank provides information on payments and payouts involving individual doctors. This is essentially a subset of the NAIC data, which include both individual doctor and hospital information. However, the NPDB shows a similar decline in ttal payouts, from nearly 16,000 payouts in 2001 to less than 8,500 today. In other words, half as many injured victims recovered some compensation last year than ten years prior.
Keeping It in Perspective
All medical malpractice attorneys should remind their critics of this data. Payouts are decreasing drastically and malpractice premium payments are lower than they have been in quite some time. Interestingly, these changes have not at all been reflected in lower overall healthcare costs. If claims of tort reformers are to be believed, then these insurance details should have led to lower medical bills. They have not.
That is because these legislative efforts are not actually about helping all community members lower their healthcare costs. Instead the purpose is to maximize the profit of already profitable medical and insurance interests.
In addition, while half as many medical patients recover today as ten years ago, the total number of documented medical errors have not decreased at all. Nonpartisan data shows that over $1.5 million patients are affected every year by medical mistakes. Only 8,450 of them are expected to receive any compensation at all. Yet, many are calling for even more cut to take away the rights of virtually all those hurt by medical negligence.
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