A recent report indicates that payments associated with medical malpractice claims hit a record low in 2011. The consumer advocacy group, Public Citizens said that the number of malpractice payments on behalf of doctors (9,758) was the lowest since 1991, the first full year that data was collected. This represented the eighth straight year of a decline in the number of payments. The average size of medical malpractice payments (approximately $327,000) amounted to $3.2 billion. When adjusted for inflation, this figure also takes the cake for the lowest amount on record.
The organization was quick to note that this reduced number of payments does not mean that patients should assume medical care has gotten correspondingly safer. Instead, the report should be seen as evidence that doctors are increasingly practicing defensive medicine to avoid litigation.
The data collected by the group found that most lawsuits are not frivolous, as many opponents often insist. Instead, it found that 80% of payments are for cases involving either death or catastrophic harm. The report further indicates these lawsuits do not contribute to the increasingly enormous cost of healthcare these days. Public Citizen found that med mal litigation costs came to only a tiny fraction of total national healthcare spending in 2010, 0.36% in fact.
The report also calls into question the accuracy of the National Practitioner Data Bank, where such reports of medical malpractice payments are compiled. The group says many instances of disciplinary action and money paid to patients are never recorded in the database. For instance, in cases that have settled it’s possible to remove the physician’s name from the case entirely, shielding the doctor from reporting the incident. Brian Atchinson, current president of the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), said this kind of underreporting is increasing as more physicians become hospital employees.
Even the director of the NPDB, Cindy Grubbs, admitted that the practice is happening. She told one reporter that she’s aware that doctors are dismissed before settlements are reached as a way to avoid reporting the payment on their medical record but said that the NPDB has “no way of knowing how often it occurs.”
Wondering if You Have a Claim? Call Us Today
The recent data seems to indicate that the system is not being abused and is not responsible for high healthcare costs. If you would like to speak with a Mississippi medical malpractice attorney about a potential medical malpractice claim, call Mississippi medical malpractice lawyers at Kilpatrick & Philley, PLLC today at (601) 856-7800.
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