The Truth about Malpractice Costs, Right from the Doctor’s Mouth

The Truth about Malpractice Costs, Right from the Doctor’s MouthRegular readers of our blog will know that we have covered the costs associated with medical malpractice from time to time. Most of the time, we dismantle arguments that tort reform will decrease the cost of healthcare. We’ve been fighting Bills in front of our legislators to put an end to this nonsense once and for all. So that’s why an article we ran across on The True Cost of Healthcare, by Dr. David Belk, MD, covering the real cost of medical malpractice insurance, caught our eye.

Dr. Belk started this website himself to alert people to the hidden costs of healthcare, and he begins with a unique approach: he posts an actual picture of his yearly bill for medical malpractice insurance. It’s $4,926.63. A year. In California, where the cost of everything is higher than almost anywhere else in the Continental United States. He also asked some colleagues for their average bills (which he did not post online) to compare. This is what his averages were:

  • Nephrologists – around $6,300
  • Ophthalmologists – under $7,000
  • ER physicians – between $11,000 and $12,000
  • Anesthesiologists – between $12,000 and $14,000
  • Surgeons – between $20,00 and $22,000
  • OB/GYN – around $34,000 (According to Dr. Belk, this area of medicine always has the highest premiums)

As the doctor himself puts it, “You can see from those amounts that medical malpractice premiums aren’t bankrupting me or any of my colleagues.” But is this a truly accurate depiction for the rest of the country? After all, California has some of the most draconian medical malpractice caps on the books. Victims are only entitled to up to $250,000 in non-economic damages; it has been that way since the introduction of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) in 1975.

As it turns out, it doesn’t matter. According to Dr. Belk’s research, “both the number of paid medical malpractice claims as well as the total amount paid on these claims has been dropping steadily since 2003.” In 2014, there were fewer than 8,900 paid medical malpractice claims. In fact, Tennessee ranks 31 out of the 50 states (plus D.C.), because even though there are 21,151 licensed physicians in the state, there were only been 112 paid medical malpractice claims against physicians in 2014. That comes out to just over half of one percent – 0.53%, to be exact.

It is time to stop banging the drum for tort reform

Legislators and healthcare professionals want to blame medical malpractice claims and frivolous lawsuits for the rising cost of healthcare. That is a myth. In 2013 and 2014, malpractice payments amounted to around 3.6 million dollars, excluding any other fees or legal costs. In 2013, we spent three trillion dollars on healthcare.

So what is the takeaway here?

  1. Healthcare costs are rising.
  2. The amount of paid claims is dropping.
  3. The amount of money paid out to plaintiffs in those claims dropping.
  4. Medical malpractice is not the reason why healthcare is so expensive.

Pharmaceuticals and rising hospital administration costs account for the majority of our healthcare costs. Maybe we should focus more on the real culprits here, as opposed to fighting to take away the futures of the critically and catastrophically injured.

The Rocky McElhaney Law Firm gives a voice to the voiceless throughout Tennessee. If you were seriously injured in an accident, or sustained injuries because of an act of medical malpractice, let us fight for you. To schedule a free consultation with a medical malpractice attorney in Nashville, Hendersonville or Knoxville, please call 615-425-2500, or fill out our contact form to find out more.

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