Report Indicates Spiraling Healthcare Costs not Caused by Medical Malpractice Lawsuits


According to data obtained from the National Practitioner Data Bank and analyzed by the nonprofit civic advocate group Public Citizen, the notion that medical malpractice lawsuits have been driving up healthcare costs is untrue. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence indicating that the amount of money paid out on medical malpractice lawsuits is lower than it has been in decades.

The data analyzed by Public Citizen revealed the following information:

  • In 2010, the number of medical malpractice payments made to injured victims decreased for the seventh consecutive year, reaching the lowest point since the creation of the databank in 1990
  • The total value of medical malpractice payments in 2010, when adjusted for inflation, was the lowest total since this data was first collected in 1990
  • The actual dollar value of payments in 2010 were the lowest since 1998
  • Over the last decade, healthcare spending increased 90% even though medical malpractice payments decreased 11.9%
  • Medical malpractice payments in 2010 were only .13 of 1% of all total health costs for the country – this is the lowest percentage since data was first recorded in 1990
  • In 2009, the total costs associated with medical malpractice lawsuits dropped to .4 of 1% of total health costs – this is the lowest level recorded since the databank was created in 1990

The data presented by Public Citizen is in stark contrast to the claims made by politicians currently trying to push through the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost, Timely Healthcare Act of 2011. If passed, this law would substantially limit the ability of medical malpractice victims to receive compensation for their injuries.

Politicians supporting this bill claim that rising medical malpractice costs have been one of the primary reasons healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control. But based on the evidence indicating that malpractice costs are at an all-time low, it is difficult to draw the conclusion put forth by members of Congress.

The data analyzed by Public Citizen also revealed that there has not been a corresponding decline in medical errors associated with this reduction in medical malpractice lawsuits. In other words, fewer people than ever are receiving compensation for injuries caused by preventable medical errors.

It is unfortunate that lawmakers are trying to point the blame at the wrong party in this debate. Instead of criticizing the legal system for the number of malpractice claims that are filed annually, lawmakers should focus their attention on the subpar medical treatment that is administered all too frequently across the country. This way, the real problem of poor patient safety might finally get addressed.