/ Blog/ Is There a Medical Malpractice Crisis in Indiana and the U.S.?
If you listen to some elected officials in Washington, you might think that there’s a crisis in the medical malpractice system. Doctors are paying higher premiums than ever before, and the amount of patients suing for malpractice is skyrocketing. Juries are incessantly awarding higher and higher damages to malpractice sufferers. Add all this up and some would insist that the system is on the verge of collapse.
Except, recent data shows none of those things are true.
In fact, the current system of medical malpractice insurance and settlements is healthier than it’s been in years. Doctors are paying less in premiums than they used to, fewer patients are suing, and, while some awards have been large, total payouts are actually down.
So, what’s going on?
It’s a combination of many things–some that can be managed (such as damage caps) and some that can’t (such as general economic cycles or the performance of insurance company investments). How much each matters is open for debate. But what we do know is that these concerns for an out-of-control medical malpractice system are simply not supported.
Doctors aren’t driving up costs with unnecessary tests either. It’s true that some fraction of medical costs result from what is considered “defensive medicine”— or tests or procedures performed only to avoid potential liability.
But one analysis showed that this accounts for less than 3 percent of all medical costs. An estimate of the total costs of malpractice insurance, litigation, and payouts suggests that they combine for $10 billion or more each year. That would be roughly one-third of one percent of all medical costs—literally a fraction of a cent for every healthcare dollar.
Indiana has led the way since 1975 when it became the first state to enact comprehensive medical malpractice reform. That law included a cap on financial damages, but also affirmed the right of wronged patients to sue, as long as their claims were cleared by a medical review panel. In return for the financial protection provided by the cap on damages, physicians pay into a fund that pays a portion of successful large claims on behalf of physicians.
Between 2005 and 2015, Indiana saw fewer than 3,000 cases that led to a medical practitioner paying a malpractice claim. That’s less than 300 cases each year. Many of those judgments were not large enough to trigger the statutory cap.
Few people would support a change in our laws that would make it harder for the victim of a car crash to sue the driver who caused the accident as it makes auto insurance premiums too high. But many people mistakenly support those who would take a similar approach to medical malpractice law based on the belief that it’s driving up medical costs.
At Wilson Kehoe Winingham, we are Indianapolis medical malpractice lawyers who have been helping victims of medical negligence for over 30 years. If you need help with a medical malpractice claim, call us at 317-920-6400 or contact us online.
March 15, 2017
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