A new report by the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen shows that caps on medical malpractice awards and attempts to control malpractice litigation have had no effect on slowing the rise of healthcare costs.
Some lawmakers have claimed that malpractice awards and defensive medicine practices are responsible for rising medical bills. But according to a new Public Citizen report entitled Medical Economics, that is not the case.
Taylor Lincoln, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, found that both the frequency of malpractice payouts and the amount of money paid have steadily gone down since 2003, based on information in the National Practitioner Data Bank. More than 80 percent of the malpractice payments made in 2012 compensated victims and their families for major permanent injuries, brain damage, quadriplegia, injuries requiring lifelong care and fatal injuries. Furthermore, in 2012, these costs were the lowest ever documented.
However, overall healthcare expenditures have gone up by more than 58 percent since 2003.
Lincoln points out that “the divergence between healthcare costs and medical malpractice litigation affirms what critics of imposing malpractice litigation restrictions have said all along: That litigation is not to blame for rising costs or inadequate access to care.”
The Public Citizen report recommends that reducing healthcare spending requires a focus on rising compensation for medical specialists and administrators of major hospital systems. Compensation to individuals in these fields has outpaced inflation over the last few years.
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