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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
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Medical Malpractice Rates Fall for Fifth Straight Year

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Premiums for medical malpractice insurance for three bellwether specialties dropped for the fifth straight year in 2012, according to an article by Medscape. Medical societies such as the American Medical Association have argued that a broken medical liability system increases insurance premiums for physicians. However, rates for obstetrician/gynecologists, general internists, and general surgeons decreased on average by 1.7% in 2012, following declines of since 2008, according to an annual rate survey by Medical Liability Monitor (MLM).

One reason why malpractice insurers can still make profits while charging less is a drop in malpractice claims, according to Chad Karls, an author of the survey. Another potential influence on premiums is caps on pain and suffering damages that many states have recently enacted in hopes that they reduce the number of “frivolous lawsuits and excessive jury awards.”

Nearly 60 percent of the hundreds of reported premium rates remained the same from 2011, about 25 percent decreased, and about 15 percent increased. Rates published in the MLM survey do not reflect credits, debits, or other factors that may raise or lower premiums. Karls noted that the rates could be pushed substantially lower by increasing use of credits by insurers to encourage the use of electronic health records.

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    So true. The powerful and well funded doctors organizations and the insurance industry have spent huge sums to mislead the public about the 98,000+ who die each year and the even greater number who are seriously injured through avoidable medical errors, and about how less than 10% of those wrongful deaths and injuries are ever the subject of a lawsuit. As Mary Alice McLarty, President of the American Association of Justice (www.justice.org) wrote recently, the people of this country need the protection of a strong civil justice system and that citizens’ rights to bring their medical malpractice claims in court is fundamental to reducing avoidable medical errors. Read her comments at: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/12/health/medical-malpractice/index.html She also asks why doesn’t the medical profession spend its time and money trying to reduce the avoidable errors that lead to patient death and injury to patients rather than lobbying for laws reducing doctors’ accountability for medical errors. In Hawaii we have less that 25 medical malpractice lawsuits each year, because many patients don’t realize they have been the victim of negligence and because doctors and the insurance industry have made it prohibitively expensive to bring claims thus excluding the average citizen from bringing a case. Good article Mike. We need to get this word out to the public.