I grew up in Orange County, California, a hotbed of conservatism, so I know a lot of people who are conservatives. I also interact on a message board that is dominated by conservatives, and the issue of tort reform had come up there as well. Basically, the idea goes something like this: We need to enact tort reform to cut down on frivolous lawsuits because they drive up medical malpractice insurance premiums, the cost of which is then passed on to the consumers, thereby driving up health care costs for everybody.
So in my discussion with the two gentlemen standing in line, they brought up the issue of tort reform, and how that should be the first line of attack in any real health care reform. Not having any information on this in my hands, I decided to do a little research on the issue when I returned home to see exactly how much medical malpractice premiums drive up the overall cost of health care. What I found surprised me greatly.
A quick Google search turned up a report (PDF file) put out by Americans For Insurance Reform, published July 22, 2009. AIR--who calls itself "a coalition of nearly 100 consumer and public interest groups around the country"--undertook the task of reviewing the medical malpractice insurance industry, going back 30 years in the process.
Under the direction of actuary J. Robert Hunter, Director of Insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, and former Federal Insurance Administrator and Texas Insurance Commissioner, AIR has analyzed national and state premium, claims and profit figures for the medical malpractice industry.
Here is what they found:
• Medical malpractice premiums, inflation-adjusted, are nearly the lowest they have been in 30 years.
• Medical malpractice claims, inflation-adjusted, are dropping significantly, down 45 percent since 2000.
• Medical malpractice premiums are less than one-half of one percent of the country’s overall health care costs; medical malpractice claims are a mere one-fifth of one percent of health care costs. In over 30 years, premiums and claims have never been greater than 1% of our nation’s health care costs.
• Medical malpractice insurer profits are higher than the rest of the property casualty industry, which has been remarkably profitable over the last five years.
• The periodic premium spikes that doctors experience, as they did from 2002 until 2005, are not related to claims but to the economic cycle of insurers and to drops in investment income.
• Many states that have resisted enacting severe restrictions on injured patients’ legal rights experienced rate changes (i.e., premium increases or decreases for doctors) similar to those in states that enacted severe restrictions on patients’ rights, i.e., there is no correlation between "tort reform" and insurance rates for doctors.
I urge everybody to take some time out of your busy day to go to the link above and read the entire report for yourself (should only take 15-20 minutes). Every argument we can counter the right on in spreading disinformation about health care is one less argument they have to obstruct real health care reform. And whatever you do, memorize this little nugget for the next time a conservative tells you that "frivolous lawsuits" are the main culprit behind high health care costs: Medical malpractice premiums are less than one-half of one percent of the country’s overall health care costs; medical malpractice claims are a mere one-fifth of one percent of health care costs.
Thank you for recommending this diary.
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