Talking heads all over the country have been complaining in recent years about a “malpractice crisis,” and how areas are having problems finding doctors because of high malpractice insurance costs. They blame this on the trial lawyers, who file suits on behalf of people who were seriously injured by a physician’s negligence. People call these lawsuits “frivilous,” these attorneys and injured people “greedy” and claim we need “tort reform” to keep health care coverage down.
Anyone who reads this blog will hear me say this again and again: there is no malpractice crisis. Tort reform will not help.
Rather than post all my thoughts at once, I’m just going to add to the debate from time to time, whenever I read something interesting or enlightening. Here are two things, from Tennessee attorney John Day. First, Mr. Day cites a reportstating that malpractice insurance premuims rose faster between 2001 and 2004 than was justified by payouts. In other words, the insurance companies charged doctors more NOT because the insurance companies had to pay more, but because the insurance companies wanted to make more money. Now the actual study, linked within Mr. Day’s post, seems to leave open the question of whether insurance companies actually spent more money fighting claims with no payout, and arguably needing the rate increases for that reason. Judging by the massive record profits insurance companies have seen for the last few years, I doubt it… but this study seems to ignore that question.
Second, in this post, Mr. Day cites a Healthgrades study showing that hospital errors are rising, and that there were nearly 250,000 potentially preventable deaths in hospitals between 2002 and 2005. There are great numbers in the post and the actual report that I don’t have time to list here, so click here for the original blog post.