Fun Facts to Know and Tell

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt’s latest piece is a treasure trove of fun facts about medical malpractice.

To wit:

The direct costs of malpractice lawsuits — jury awards, settlements and the like — are such a minuscule part of health spending that they barely merit discussion, economists say. But that doesn’t mean the malpractice system is working . . .

$60 billion a year, or about 3 percent of overall medical spending, is a reasonable upper-end estimate [of wasteful treatment] . . .

Medical errors happen more frequently here than in other rich countries, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently found. Only a tiny share of victims receive compensation . . .

All told, jury awards, settlements and administrative costs — which, by definition, are similar to the combined cost of insurance — add up to less than $10 billion a year. This equals less than one-half of a percentage point of medical spending.

Hmmmm. Makes a fellow think.

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2 Responses to Fun Facts to Know and Tell

  1. doctorblue says:

    Talk of the threat of medical malpractice claims and awards as a major reason for the high cost of medical care is nothing more than another way to derail any real health care reform.

    I can’t understand why no one is focusing on the psychological effects that medical insurance company practices have on the way doctors practice medicine. One doctor tailored one of my diagnoses to “non-specific colitis” rather than “ulcerative colitis,” he said, so as to prevent my medical insurance from being cancelled. Then he treated me with Asacol, medicine prescribed to treat those with ulcerative colitis. However, “doctoring” his diagnosis in my medical file influenced how other doctors viewed my condition so they no longer took my complaints of illness serious, and this prevented me from being correctly and comprehensively diagnosed and treated.

    I have several examples of doctors “downgrading” medical findings and ignoring positive lab test results due to: 1) feared repercussions of insurance companies delaying their payments or canceling coverage, or 2) because the reimbursement from the insurance company wouldn’t fully compensate them for the time they would need to spend to analyze my condition, or 3) would prevent the doctor from receiving his year end insurance bonus for having “healthy” patients. I became disabled as a result. The experiences are interspersed in my portrayals of patient/doctor interactions at

    I never filed a warranted medical malpractice claim because I didn’t have any money left after spending it fruitlessly on doctors and tests to get well. Even the few attorneys who take cases on contingency require the injured party to pay thousands upfront for expert witnesses, court costs, administrative fees, etc. I find it ironic that once a party is made disabled, jobless and broke at the hands of doctors he paid, the medical malpractice legal system prevents him from filing a claim. This happens all of the time, so it is no wonder that so few cases are filed.

    To anyone with any insight into the reality of medical malpractice (which highly favors doctors and insurance companies), it’s ludicrous that anyone would be pointing to the injureds’ awards as a cause for the increased cost of “medical care.” We should be looking for ways that more injured parties could bring such cases to trial — like being able to sue the insurance companies via class action suits for not overseeing that their providers actually provided the medical care the insurance companies promised in their annual and quarterly SEC filings and patient contracts!

  2. Pingback: Fun Facts to Know and Tell Update « Campaign Outsider

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