Study Shows All-Time Low Medical Malpractice Payouts in 2012

Payouts to patients who have been harmed by medical malpractice fell to the lowest on record in 2012, according to consumer rights watchdog group Public Citizen.

The organization recently looked at data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a database used by the federal government to track payouts in medical malpractice cases nationwide.

Here is a look at some trends over the last 10 years, as captured in the report ”No Correlation: Continued Decrease in Medical Malpractice Payments Debunks Theory That Litigation Is to Blame for Soaring Medical Costs”:

  • Malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors fell for the ninth consecutive year in 2012, and the overall number of payouts (9,379) is the lowest on record.
  • Medical malpractice payments have dropped by almost 29 percent, while national health care costs have climbed 58 percent.

As the name of the study suggests, Public Citizen asserts that the numbers challenge the popular notion that high-priced payouts to medical malpractice plaintiffs is a key contributor to rising health care costs.

(Medical Malpractice Q&A)

But what about other aspects of the health care cost spectrum; not just the end game of verdicts and settlements?   Are doctors and other health care providers spending unprecedented amounts on liability and malpractice insurance, thanks in part to the fear of having to defend against the next big medical malpractice verdict? Public Citizen says no, pointing to the fact that medical liability insurance premiums  fell to 0.36 of 1 percent of health care costs, the lowest level in the past decade.

And speaking of medical malpractice, a recent investigation and report by USA Today finds that state medical boards aren’t doing nearly enough to strip the licenses of doctors whose checkered professional histories feature numerous instances of misconduct and treatment errors that have brought harm to patients: Thousands of Doctors Practicing Despite Errors, Misconduct.