I recently attended a nice social gathering/cocktail party where the subject of my law practice came up for discussion. Several people were interested in my medical malpractice cases (I shared no names… just facts) and I got the typical questions of, “who would you want to perform X surgery on you?” or “what hospital does the best job of caring for its patients?” I did my best to respond without compromising my clients’ confidentiality or defame certain doctors or hospitals.
Next, a friend and local business owner expressed his assumption that my law firm’s lawsuits against doctors and hospitals increased the cost of medical care and medical insurance for everyone. My first reaction was to tell my friend that he spent way too much time reading the drivel put out by the Chamber of Commerce and similar lawyer bashing groups. Of course, my friend is a sound practitioner of “cognitive dissonance” and only listens to his own voice if someone has a different opinion.
My discussion got me to thinking and I started researching for data to support my belief that lawsuits against health care providers improves care and has no substantial effect on the costs of health care. Here are some important facts to share:
1. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical negligence is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—right behind heart disease and cancer.
2. Medical malpractice payouts continue to shrink in the United States, according to a report from Public Citizen, a Washington, D.C.-based organization. The quantity and cumulative value of medical malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors were at their lowest level on record in 2012, according to a new Public Citizen analyzing data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Read the report for yourself.
3. Physician pay for anesthesiologists, cardiologists, general surgeons, internal medicine specialists, Ob-Gyn doctors, and radiologists rose an average of 47% between 2003 and 2013. The average pay for hospital executives rose over 50% during the same time period.
My Take: Medical malpractice occurs way too often and, when it does, people suffer serious injures and some lose their life. Fewer medical malpractice lawsuits are being filed than at any time in recent history (the explanation is for another post). Finally, and most important for my friend (who will never read this blog), it is not the lawsuits causing his health care and insurance to dramatically increase. I suggest it is the increasing salaries/profits made by doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies.