STUDY: MEDICAL MALPRACTICE PAYOUTS NOT THE CULPRIT IN SKYROCKETING HEALTH CARE COSTS
Researchers at Johns Hopkins debunk claims that large frivolous malpractice payouts are driving high health care costs
Chicago, IL, May 26, 2013 – Attempts to lower health care costs in the United States have frequently focused on the medical malpractice system, with tort reform proponents asserting that large, frivolous payouts rank among the top reasons for rising costs. Results of a new review of malpractice claims by Johns Hopkins researchers indicate that these claims are wrong.
In a review of medical malpractice payouts of over $1 million, published in the “Journal for Healthcare Quality,” researchers reviewed nationwide medical malpractice claims using the National Practitioner Data Bank, looking at data from 2004 to 2010 detailing payments made on behalf of individual providers.
Medical malpractice payouts over $1 million are categorized as catastrophic claims. Researchers found payouts for catastrophic claims amounted to approximately $1.4 billion annually, accounting for far less than one percent of medical expenditures in the United States.
They are, according to study authors, most likely to occur in cases in which a patient is injured or killed is under the age of one, develops quadriplegia, brain damage or the need for lifelong care due to medical malpractice, or in claims that result from anesthesia-related problems.
Researchers concluded that their findings indicate that efforts in reducing health care costs and improving patient safety should be directed towards determining what interventions might prevent errors that result in catastrophic payouts, and that the data suggests that the focus of legal reform efforts should be aimed at reducing defensive medicine rather than the creation of malpractice caps.
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