The Malpractice Myth

Thanks to Michael Kaplen's braininjury blog for these observations regarding Tom Baker's insightful book on how the insurance industry continues to contribute to a reduction in the quality of health care in America:

In a new book entitled, The Medical Malpractice Myth,Tom Baker, Connecticut Mutual Professor of Law and director of the Insurance Center at the University of Connecticut, uses empirical evidence to dismantle the myths that permeate the national debate over medical malpractice and liability insurance costs.

Baker, who spoke yesterday at a briefing for congressional staff on medical malpractice, writes that the real problem is too much medical malpractice, not too much litigation. Most people do not sue, which means that victims - not doctors, hospitals, or liability insurance companies - bear the lion's share of the costs of medical malpractice

Here are some of Baker's Key Findings:

Medical Malpractice Is An Epidemic

Medical errors kill up to 100,000 Americans each year. (p. 9) 
1 in every 100 hospitalized patients becomes a victim of negligent care. (p.29)

Insurance Costs Are Low

Medical malpractice premiums account for less than 1 percent of all heath care spending. (p.9) 
The average physician paid less than $12,000 for malpractice insurance. (p.66)

Insurance Rate Changes Are Not Related to Litigation

Medical malpractice insurance premiums rise and fall because of the "boom and bust" nature of the insurance underwriting cycle. (p. 51) 
The tort system has "little or nothing to due" with the fluctuations in insurance premiums. (p.45)

Tort Reform Hurts Patient Safety

"All the research that has been done so far points in the same direction: tort reform does not improve hearth-care outcomes" (p. 148) 
"Research suggests that a least some kinds of tort reforms might have a detrimental effect on health." (p. 148)

Doctors Are Not Fleeing

There are more doctors per capita than ever before. (p. 143-144) 
There are isolated access to health care problems, but they do not really have anything to do with malpractice lawsuits. (p.155)

Malpractice Suits are Rare; Usually Meritorious

Less than 3% of malpractice victims file suit. (p.63) 
The rate of malpractice suits has declined over the past 15 years. (p.37) 
"Research clearly rejects the claim that most medical malpractice lawsuits are frivolous.: (p. 86)

Tort Driven Defensive Medicine Is A Myth

"Defensive medicine is a trumpted up charge." (p.155) 
"The overall impacto f this defensive medicine on health-care costs is not very large." (p. 134).