Medical Malpractice Myth #2

We’re continuing to discuss the 5 Myths of Medical Malpractice today. This one happens to be my favorite because it’s so outrageous and a number of people believe it. The second myth is “Medical malpractice claims drive up healthcare costs.” According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the total spent defending claims and compensating victims of medical negligence in 2007 was $7.1 billion—just 0.3% of health care costs. Now, remember this figure is from the insurance industry. The second argument is an indirect one. Those who promote this myth argue that medical malpractice claims drive up insurance by forcing doctors to practice defensive medicine. However, the facts don’t support this claim. According to the AAJ study, “Most claims of “defensive medicine” are derived from a 1996 study that has repeatedly been debunked by government agencies and academic researchers. The study, conducted by Daniel Kessler and Mark McClellan, examined data on the costs of treating cardiac patients covered by Medicare in 1984, 1987, and 1990. The authors took this small subset of data and extrapolated the findings to the entire health care system to conclude that tort reform could reduce medical costs by five to nine percent because doctors no longer felt the need to run tests because of liability concerns.” If defensive medicine exists at all, its sole purpose is to generate income not avoid a liability claim.