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AMA: Broken Medical Liability System Affects Patient Care

Tracey Romero • Thu, February 1st, 2018

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A new series of trend reports by the American Medical Association (AMA) highlights the continued cost burden of the current medical liability system and how it negatively affects patient care.

American Medical Association President David O. Barbe, M.D. M.H.A., said in a press release, “Information in this new research paints a bleak picture of physicians’ experiences with medical liability claims and the associated cost burdens on the health system.”

The first report, “Medical Liability Claim Frequency Among U.S. Physicians,” in the AMA’s Policy Research Perspective series analyzed how often patient care physicians in the United States face medical liability claims. Here are some of the important takeaways.

  • More than a third of physicians (34%) have had a claim filed against them at some point during their career.
  • General surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists have the highest risk of being sued, with pediatricians and psychiatrists having the lowest risk.
  • More than half of general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists have been sued before they reach their 55th

The second report, “Medical Professional Liability Insurance Indemnity Payments, Expenses and Claim Disposition, 2006-2015,” focused specifically on a sample of medical liability claims that closed between 2006 and 2015 aggregated by the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA). Here are some of the important takeaways.

  • The average expense of medical liability claims that closed in 2015 was $54,165 which was a 64.5% increase since 2006.
  • While 68.2% of all closed claims in 2015 were dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, there were still costs incurred. All claims cost on average at least $30,475 to defend.

The third report, “Medical Professional Liability Insurance Premiums: An Overview of the Market from 2008 to 2017,” looked at the annual changes in medical liability insurances premiums for 2008 to 2017 gathered from the Annual Rate Survey Issues of the Medical Liability Monitor. Here are some of the important takeaways.

  • Since 2015, more premiums have increased than decreased. In 2017, only 12.4% of premiums decreased, while 13.4% were higher than premiums for 2016.
  • There is still a wide difference in the cost of premiums across the country. In some parts of New York, premiums for obstetricians/gynecologists were $214,999 in 2017 while premiums in some areas of California for these same type of physicians were $49,804.

Barbe added, “The reports validate the fact that preserving quality and access in medicine, while reducing cost, requires fairness in the civil justice system. Every dollar spent on the broken medical liability system is a dollar that cannot be used to improve patient care.”

“Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, the heavy cost associated with a litigious climate takes a significant financial toll on our health care system when the nation is working to reduce unnecessary health care costs.”

According to the release, the AMA is pursuing medical liability reform along with state and specialty medical associations and other stakeholders. Read Medical Liability Reform—Now! for more information.

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One Response to “AMA: Broken Medical Liability System Affects Patient Care”

  1. Miriam says:

    You fail to list one important statistic. The majority of malpractice cases are against the same small percentage of doctors. It behooves the medical community to weed these doctors (sic) out, instead of testifying in their favor. This will result in huge savings for all, and eliminate needless human suffering.

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