NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

More Lawyers, Fewer Doctors and Much Worse Health Care

October 25, 2010

Out-of-control medical liability lawsuits have triggered the closure of medical facilities and caused a mass exodus of high-risk specialists such as obstetricians and neurosurgeons from Pennsylvania and other overlawyered states.  Patients ultimately suffer, as they face higher prices and fewer options for care, says Lawrence J. McQuillan, director of Business and Economic Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.

  • One of eight doctors is hit with a lawsuit each year alleging malpractice.
  • The American Medical Association reports that 42 percent of doctors have been sued at least once and 20 percent at least twice.

Most lawsuits are dismissed or result in a judgment for the doctor.  But doctors lose even when they win since the average defense cost per trial approaches $100,000.

Doctors don't shoulder these costs on their own.  Patients pay higher health care costs and insurance premiums.  In addition, they might be subjected to unnecessary and costly tests because wary doctors view them as potential litigants.

  • More than nine of 10 doctors admit to practicing defensive medicine.
  • Younger doctors are more likely to do so than older doctors because protecting oneself against litigation has become a standard part of medical training.
  • Defensive medicine also drives up health care costs, adding $191 billion each year to the nation's health care bill.

Stanford University economist Daniel P. Kessler and Brookings Institution scholar Mark McClellan found that a package of simple reforms, including a cap on noneconomic damage awards, would reduce annual medical expenditures by 5 percent to 9 percent without adverse effects on patients.

Source: Lawrence J. McQuillan, "More Lawyers, Fewer Doctors and Much Worse Health Care," Washington Examiner, October 20, 2010.


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