In Ohio, we were sold a lie. Insurance companies and the doctors they represent told us that medical malpractice was a major factor in rising insurance rates and the rising cost of medicine. Faced with rising health care costs that were hampering the competitiveness of Ohio businesses and threaten to bankrupt Ohio families for even relatively minor injuries, we were told that we needed to stop “frivolous” medical malpractice lawsuits, and then the costs of insurance and health care would go down.

If you need any more evidence of this, you can look to the recent report published by Public Citizen, an independent watchdog group that has often criticized pharmaceutical manufacturers and government agencies for making fallacious statements about health care and drug safety. Now, the group is showing us the truth so that we do not sacrifice any more rights in our desperation to control rising healthcare costs.

On the question of whether medical malpractice is responsible for rising healthcare costs, the report is especially illuminative. Using data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, the Public Citizen Report shows that health care spending rose by 90% from 2000 to 2010, while medical malpractice payments fell by 12%. In 2010, payments for medical malpractice amounted to just 0.13 of 1% of total healthcare costs. When you add in the total cost of medical malpractice insurance, which incorporates most of the litigation costs and administrative costs for malpractice, as well as insurance company profit, it still only represents 0.4 of 1% of total healthcare expenditures in 2009, the last year for which premium data is available

The report also shows that the disparity between the amount insurance companies take in and what they pay out has increased significantly since record-keeping began. In 1991, insurance companies took in 2.38 times as much in premiums as they paid out in medical malpractice payments. After a brief dip in the late 90s (when insurance companies were taking in slightly less than twice what they were paying out), the proportion of premiums to payouts has increased again and now sits at 2.84.

The Public Citizen report also tells us that “frivolous lawsuits” account for little of the cost of medical malpractice. If you add up the number of payments made for insignificant injury, emotional injury only, and all those cases where the severity of the injury could not be determined from records (assume they’re frivolous), they account for only 4.6% of all medical malpractice payments. And when you account for the amounts paid in these cases, they amount to only 1.1% of the value of payouts. By comparison, 38.9 % of payments accounting for 46.6% of the value were due to alleged medical malpractice that resulted in wrongful death, quadriplegia, or brain damage requiring lifetime care. When you add in payments for major permanent injury and significant permanent injury, these account for 63.8% of payments and 82.1% of the value of payments.

And remember, we’re only talking about 0.13 of 1% of the total cost of health care. So payments for frivolous lawsuits actually account for 0.00143 of 1% of the total cost of health care. If we were looking to save some of the relatively small portion of healthcare costs due to medical malpractice, the place to start is not with frivolous lawsuits, but with insurance companies, which absorb 65% of the costs spent on medical malpractice, more than 257 times the amount spent on frivolous lawsuits.

A person injured by a doctor’s error deserves compensation for injuries sustained. The best thing you can do to make sure you and your family will be able to get compensation if you are injured by medical malpractice is to work to roll back current tort reforms and prevent future ones from being implemented.

If you have been hurt by a doctor’s error, our ability to pursue compensation is hampered by Ohio law, but we still may be able to help. Please contact Robert W. Kerpsack, CO, LPA today to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more.