Professional Liability: New information

The health policy journal ‘Health Affairs’ featured a recent series of articles on malpractice and liability. Warning: The journal is generally viewed as unfriendly to physician concerns. A study estimated total annual cost of medical liability as $55.6B or 2.4% of healthcare costs. This includes defensive medicine costs. This is lower than previous estimates but even if true 2.4% of $2.3 T annually is still a lot of dollars. Another article by Mello et al calculated the cost of defensive medicine at $45.6B in2008 or 82% of the total system cost for malpractice liability. In other words, 18% of the cost is related to actually from all the lawyering that goes on every single day related to claims against physicians. A third study evaluated physician perceptions about MP claims and concluded that concerns about MP were high in both specialists and generalists and ‘modest’ differences between states with and without tort reform. In another study by J. William Thomas, Ph.D., Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy, University of Southern Maine of 35 medical specialties, tort reform changes to cap pain and suffering would reduce medical malpractice premiums by 10 percent and reduce the nation’s total medical costs enough to result in savings of $20 billion between 2010 and 2019. 
Comment: Whichever way you slice it, the cost of frivolous suits is significant. There is NO chance of federal reform with this Congress. Maybe when all the stars are aligned with the legislative, executive and judicial branches in synch we may see the promised land.