September 20, 2011

Doctors are constantly complaining that the fear of medical malpractice claims has changed the way they practice medicine, has increased health care costs, and has caused doctors to flee the profession due to high medical malpractice insurance premiums and “frivolous lawsuits.”

How have medical malpractice claims really affected doctors?

For one thing, doctors are not packing their medical bags and becoming taxi drivers. A survey of high-risk medical specialists found that 43% stated that they would restrict or eliminate services because of medical malpractice claims but only 3% actually did what they said they would do. In 2009, there were a record 972,376 doctors in the United States, which was nearly 18,000 more than in 2008. In 2009, there were 317 doctors for every 100,000 in population – a record proportion.

Has the imposition of caps (limits) on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases by some states resulted in more doctors practicing in those states than in states that don’t have the caps?

The number of doctors per 100,000 population is 21% higher in those states without caps (349) than those states with caps (288). The average medical malpractice insurance premium is higher in those states with caps than for those states without caps (the average rate of profit for medical malpractice insurance companies in those states with caps is 25% higher than for those in states without caps). Recent increases in medical malpractice premiums were based on diminishing investment values and lower interest rates as opposed to medical malpractice claims payments – there is little if any correlation between medical malpractice payments and medical malpractice premiums.

Research supports that there would be no significant reduction in medical malpractice insurance premiums as a result of so-called tort reform because the medical malpractice insurance companies do not pass on savings to their insured doctors (for 2008, the top ten medical malpractice insurance companies had average reported profits greater than those for 99% of the Fortune 500 companies (35 times the average profit of the Fortune 500 companies)).

In 2008, receipts of medical malpractice insurance companies in states with caps were 3.5 times the amount that they paid out, compared to 2 times in states without caps. Since medical malpractice insurance companies exist to maximize the amount of money that they earn, they are amongst the most ardent advocates for noneconomic damages caps because they earn more money in those states that have enacted caps. The top ten medical malpractice insurance companies alone earned more than $1 billion in profit in 2009.

Despite insurance industry propaganda to the contrary, medical malpractice insurance premiums increased only slightly between 1970 and 2000, and actually declined the later half of the same period. Medical malpractice expenses for doctors declined from 11% of total practice expenses in 1986 to 7% in 2000 (however, doctors’ average income decreased by 10% from 1996 to 2000 – but don’t feel too sorry for doctors because their average income is still in the top 95th to 99th percentile of average income for all Americans).

And it’s not just medical malpractice insurance companies that are earning huge profits: the health insurance industry’s profits rose 56% in 2009. The five largest health insurance companies alone earned $12.2 billion dollars in 2009. While the health insurance companies enjoyed enormous profits, 2.7 million Americans lost their health insurance coverage in 2009.


So if you or a family member have become the victim of medical malpractice negligence, you owe it to yourself and to your family to seek out legal advice regarding your right to compensation for your injuries and losses caused by the careless (or worse) acts of a negligent health care provider. Visit our website to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your area who may be able to assist you with your medical malpractice claim or call us, toll free, at 800-295-3959.

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