INSIGHTS On Massachusetts Personal Injury Law

Welcome to the SUGARMAN blog. We'll be sharing our perspectives on the state of the law and current legal issues in Massachusetts personal injury law. Issues relating to medical malpractice, construction site injuries, premises liability, product liability, motor vehicle accidents, insurance, and more will all be reviewed here by our team of lawyers who have prosecuted some of the most complex cases in Massachusetts personal injury law.

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Medical Malpractice – New Public Citizen Report Discredits Claim that Medical Malpractice Payments Account for Soaring Healthcare Costs

A recent report of Public Citizen, a national nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, concludes that medical malpractice payments hit a record low in 2011, discrediting the claim that these payments are to blame for the skyrocketing cost of healthcare.  In the report, “Malpractice Payments Sunk to Record Low in 2011,” Public Citizen analyzed data from the federal government’s National Practitioner Data Bank, which tracks medical malpractice payments.

The report found that the number of payments made on behalf of doctors were at their lowest since 1991 and had fallen for eight consecutive years, and that the inflation-adjusted value of payments in dollar amount payments was the lowest on record.  At the same time, Public Citizen reported that medical malpractice payments’ share of the nation’s overall healthcare costs was the lowest on record, just 0.12 percent of all national healthcare costs.  The report stated that there is no evidence that the decline in medical malpractice payments is due to safer medical care, citing to three major studies performed in 2010 and 2011, including an April 2011 study published in Health Affairs which concluded that adverse medical events occur in nearly one-in-three hospital admissions.

The juxtaposition of soaring healthcare costs with a decline in medical malpractice payments discredits the notion that medical malpractice lawsuits account for the rising healthcare costs, a position taken by those who seek to limit patients’ access to compensation on these claims. The report further debunks the suggestion that medical malpractice claims are largely “frivolous,” as it found that 80 percent of the medical malpractice awards compensated patients for death, catastrophic harm or permanent injuries.

Public Citizen concludes in its report that uncompensated medical errors are costing both victims and taxpayers significantly, as the vast majority of medical errors are not resulting in malpractice compensation payments for patients and are borne by the victims themselves or the medical system as a whole in the form of unreimbursed care.

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