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New Report on Record Low Medical Malpractice Payments

Public Citizen issued a new report recently that delved into the actual facts about medical malpractice payments in recent years. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm knows that if you listened to certain special interest groups you might get the impression that insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals were facing a steady increase in payment for malpractice. But is that assessment accurate? Of course not. As we’ve often discussed, the number of lawsuits filed and total payouts have dropped steadily over the years–even as actual instances of medical errors have not changed. All of this means that patients have steadily had their ability eroded to seek recovery following mistakes without any benefit.

Sadly, our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers know that the attacks on patient rights continues, with even more laws proposed to further insulate insurance companies from paying out on claims when patients are hurt by unreasonable mistakes. Spreading truth about the issues and statistics of the medical malpractice situation is the first step in beating back these dangerous legislative proposals.

The Report
It is worthwhile to view the entire Public Citizen report, HERE. The bottom line, however, is that the analysis of total medical malpractice payouts from last year, 2011, shows that they were at their lowest level on record using almost any measurement tool. Records on total payouts–total size and total quantity–have been kept for the past 20 years, since 1991. Last year saw the lowest level ever during that stretch.

The argument was always made that eliminating the legal rights of patients came with an exchange in some benefits for the patients. Yet, a look at the actual evidence is much starker. Patient rights have certainly been curtailed, but that has not been combined with any changes that have benefited patients. In fact, that reports explained that “the evidence suggests that litigation restrictions have suppressed meritorious claims, forcing malpractice victims and ordinary patients to absorb the costs of treating injuries caused by uncompensated medical errors.”

In other words, tort reforms effort have helped insurance companies and medical interests with only negatives effects for the patients. It is yet another example of a few big interests stomping on the rights of everyday community members. Our medical malpractice attorneys know this conduct must be stopped.

The specific data examined in the report show the details. For the eighth year in a row, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), the total number of malpractice payments nationwide decreased. The value of those payments, when adjusted for inflation, were the lowest total in the history of the databank. That was true no matter what tool was used to do the adjusting. All of this meant that, contrary to the boisterous claims continually made by tort reformers, medical malpractice payments are a mere fraction of a fraction of the total nation’s healthcare costs(.12 percent). In 2011, payments accounted for slightly more than one tenth of one percent of overall national health care costs. Anyone making claims about controlling health care costs by reigning in lawsuits simply has no grasp on reality.

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