No Evidence of Medical Malpractice Crisis, Texas Study Shows
AUSTIN, TX -- March 18, 2005 -- Republicans and the American Medical Association are promoting so-called tort reform, calling for caps on jury awards to patients who are injured through medical negligence. They claim that runaway litigation causes increased medical malpractice insurance costs, which in turn leads to increased health care expenses. Texas is often cited as a prime example of a state in the midst of such a health care crisis.
A new Texas study shows that this reasoning is wrong, however. Increases in medical malpractice premiums are not caused by excessive lawsuits, according to a report based on 15 years of data from the Texas Department of Insurance.
The researchers found that Texas insurance rate increases over a five-year period were related to insurance industry economics, not to medical malpractice claims. State claim rates, payments, total costs, and jury verdicts, when adjusted for inflation and population, remained constant or declined over the last ten years, according to the report. Also, medical malpractice claims represented less than 1% of Texas health care spending.
The study, which analyzed insurance data from 1988 through 2002, found that:
- Large claims (payments greater than $25,000 in 1988 dollars) remained constant. The number of small claims declined sharply.
- The percentage of claims with payments of more than $1 million remained steady at about 6 percent of all large claims.
- The number of total paid claims per 100 doctors fell from 6.4 in 1990-92 to 4.6 in 2000-2002.
- Jury verdicts in favor of plaintiffs showed no trend over time.
- The total cost of malpractice claims was about 0.6% of total health care expenses in Texas.
"The medical malpractice system has many problems, but a crisis in claims, payouts and jury verdicts is not among them," the study authors concluded in an op-ed piece in the New York Times (March 10, 2005). "Thus, the 'federal solution' [tort reform] that Mr. Bush proposes is both overbroad and directed at the wrong problem." They also pointed to prior studies in other states. From 1990 to 2003, paid claims in Florida and Missouri declined, and the total number of medical malpractice claims in Missouri fell by almost 40 percent, they reported.
We have discussed a similar lack of connection between insurance premiums and medical malpractice lawsuits filed in West Virginia, Arkansas, and California (see Medical Malpractice Insurance Problems Due to Economic Cycle). In California, for example, medical malpractice premiums greatly increased during the thirteen-year period after a law was passed that limited the amounts that a patient could receive for non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, and emotional distress (Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights). In 2001, the average California premium was $27,570, eight percent higher than the average of all states that had no caps on non-economic damages (Medical Malpractice, CAOC). For details, see Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Awards.
Finding Out More About Medical Malpractice and the Tort Reform Myth
For a copy of the current report, "Stability, Not Crisis: Medical Malpractice Claim Outcomes in Texas, 1988-2002," visit the Social Science Research Network web site. (Scroll to the end of the page to download the full text).
Please feel free to contact us at Brayton Purcell about your own medical malpractice case. We have been handling medical/legal cases for over 20 years and work tirelessly to protect the rights of our clients.