Medical malpractice is not inflating hospital costs, study finds

Wednesday May 8, 2013

Think about the last time you read or heard the term medical malpractice. If you read it in the news, it was likely related to proposed caps on medical malpractice awards to patients. Although patients who are injured by doctors deserve to be compensated for any further costs required because of the mistake, some people continue to point to malpractice lawsuits as money sucks for hospitals. A recent study, however, showed that lawmakers should be focusing their attention elsewhere.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, medical malpractice payouts account for less than 1 percent of total health care costs nationwide. Additionally, the most expensive medical malpractice payouts do not stem from frivolous lawsuits that some like to talk about. In fact, they generally come from cases in which a patient was killed, suffered an injury that requires lifelong medical care, or is severely injured as a baby.

What researchers say is actually the problem with health care spending is doctors performing unnecessary procedures and tests. However, many doctors perform extra tests to avoid any potential legal trouble from patients, so researchers suggested that protections for doctors could help cut costs in the long run. 

As we continue to hear proposals to limit how much a patient can receive from a medical malpractice award, hopefully lawmakers take this study into consideration. When a patient is injured by a doctor’s negligence, he or she deserves to be compensated. Pushing these victims to the side is not the answer to reducing hospital spending. 

Source: Claims Journal, “Catastrophic Malpractice Payouts Add Little to Health Care’s Rising Costs,” May 2, 2013

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