New Study Finds Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums have Minimal Effect on Health Care Costs

By Amos Budde, NCL Public Policy Intern

Americans for Insurance Reform, a coalition made up of Consumer Federation of America, ConsumerWatchdog.org and nearly 100 other public interest organizations, released a major study Wednesday on the state of the medical malpractice insurance industry.  It found that insurance rates for doctors have dropped significantly while the medical malpractice insurers are earning record profits.  The conclusion is that the cost of medical malpractice insurance is not crippling doctors and that large profits are going to the insurance industry.

Specifically, the study found, adjusting for inflation, that:

  • Medical malpractice premiums are nearly the lowest they have been in 30 years.
  • Medical malpractice claims are down 45 percent since 2000.
  • Medical malpractice insurer profits are higher than the rest of the property casualty industry, which has been very profitable over the last five years.
  • In states that have substantially limited consumers’ ability to go to court for medical malpractice, the insurance premiums for doctors are basically the same as in other states.

As the health care debate heats up, there will be an increased effort to reduce the costs of health insurance.  This study suggests that medical malpractice is not a significant cause of skyrocketing health costs.  In fact, medical malpractice claims constitute one-fifth of one percent of annual health care costs in the country, according to the report.  Cutting costs through medical malpractice reform is not likely to result in significant savings in health care reform legislation.

When people get hurt by medical errors, doctors and hospitals should be held liable.  According to one study by the Institute of Medicine, 400,000 preventable injuries occur each year related to bad prescriptions alone.  There are severe examples of people losing a limb or suffering permanent brain damage due to a doctor error.

The Americans for Insurance Reform (AIR) is a national coalition supporting reforms to lower insurance rates, increase coverage, and make the insurance industry more consumer-friendly.

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11 thoughts on “New Study Finds Medical Malpractice Insurance Premiums have Minimal Effect on Health Care Costs

  1. I personally could care less about the doctors’ sad songs on rising malpractice insurance premiums. Since when did their patients get a “sale” on health care because the doctors’ liability premiums came down?
    We are the ones paying them, which in turn pays their insurance.
    A rheumatologist in WV was instrumental in pushing a change in legislature regarding torts, and was praised by a judge for allegedly bringing doctors back to the Wheeling area.
    My husband took the day off work to drive an hour and a half so I could have my first appointment with this same rheumatologist. We’ve never met. HE REFUSED TO SEE ME WITHOUT ANY EXPLANATION! I have some kind of disease that I need further lab testing to diagnose! That’s what I came to see him about. He had six weeks advance notice to tell me he had no intentions of seeing me, whatever his reason.
    These types of stories are happening everywhere, and doctors are to blame for pushing people toward the idea of government-run health care. I was a nurse for 27 years, and I would never have supported government involvement, but I can see why people are changing in that direction.
    Who benefits from lowered insurance premiums? NEVER the patient!

  2. If someone want to pay malpractice insurance cost as a patient – why he/she can’t do it directly from own pocket? I want to be able to go to the doctor I trust, discuss treatment options and be able to wave that part of fee. If doctor does something terrible, he/she should be in jail and/or lose the license, not pay us back from our pockets. But if you want to cover things like pain and suffering from your own pocket – why not, I just don’t like this package deal.
    I didn’t see any sale yet, but I was self insured for years, and premiums getting higher and higher outpacing inflation is pretty scary thing. I also looked at Maryland state budget and health care spending is greater than road maintenance, police and education budget. So it is not just “cost of visiting doctor” issue, it is wider.
    have some service where patients can express their opinion about doctors’ services, treatment outcome, general quality of care and etc.

    • I am a medical student and it is so humble for me to find this post. There are so many things wrong with medical education from the way schools recruit students to the training process. There is a lot of disillusionment and identification of verbal and sometimes even physical abuse from within the medical field. Doctors are not necessarily genuinely nicest people and sometimes especially to each other and the younglings. Also, no one tells you until you’ve gone through it that the hierarchy is very much like military training. You never talk back and you sometimes get spat at for knowing more than your superior. You’d think medicine was more academic and congenial than that. At the same time, you do need people with special brains to be a doctor. An ordinary brain cannot memorize all the drugs and diseases and be able to discern one illness from another. These special cognitive skills are unique to physicians. Sometimes they make us humble. Many a times they blow up our egos. Look at Bloomberg and Donald Trump as examples in the political and finance world. But let me say this, it is going to change. Right now, I estimate that one out of 10 doctors that graduate from medical school still have their humanity and common sense intact, who know how to keep their prides and egos in check.

      I am interested in malpractice insurance premiums because the word down the grapevine is that being sued as a physician when not deserving really raises the premiums for a physician. I am specifically thinking of Obstetrics & Gynecology, the one field that is all about women and their health. A so important force in this world is women’s and mothers-to-be health. Women are still caretakers of children, caretakers of the future. Obstetricians are actually choosing not to deliver and only being gynecologists because their income is less than the insurance premiums. Financially no matter how good that doctor is it is impossible for him to deliver babies and take care of pregnant women. This is reality. Pregnant women are losing out. Infant mortality and morbidity remains high even when Medicaid is eligible to every women who becomes pregnant. It is a simple form to complete and mail.

      And I do agree that googd health care is supposed to be cheap. Under the current political and educational climate of this country, educating and time with the patient are our best hope. Talking to the patient is free.

      So please, be open to change for the better. I cannot say very much about the other fields but sensible and sustaining change is coming to the field of Ob/Gyn.

  3. Health insurance is a misnomer. Getting sick is not a highly unlikely event. Everyone will get sick eventually. The business model of having “insurance” for mishaps to your health is backwards and does not make any logical sense.

    Health insurance companies should either become not-for-profit, make less profit so people in general win or go out of business.

    As patients, please be patient with doctors. Try to love them as well. BUT ask questions. Everyone has a right to know WHY they can’t be seen or why a doctor is ordering this test as opposed to another test, etc. Your health should be number 1 to you.

    I am sorry to read that doctors leave it up to their secretaries to communicate with their patients. When communication is outsourced, the quality drops. I am sure the rheumatologist would have exercised more common sense if he or she was talking directly to the patient. Perhaps there was a family emergency. It would suck if rescheduling also didn’t happen.

    What I am learning about the public is that people do not give doctors a benefit of a doubt if something goes wrong during the first visit. Very valuable information!

    I really hope that Cathy got the care she needed for her rheumatological ailments.

  4. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to write more on this subject matter, it may not be a taboo matter but usually people don’t discuss such issues. To the next! Cheers!!

  5. Might I actually find out that you are coming from Queensland?
    You actually be understood as a Melbourne :3)

  6. May I simply say what a comfort to find a person that truly knows what they are discussing on the web. You certainly know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people must check this out and understand this side of your story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.

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