Fewer medical malpractice payments were made on behalf of doctors in 2009 than any year on record, according to an update of the National Practitioner Data Bank that was released this week.
The data contradict claims by some that medical malpractice litigation is to blame for rising health care costs. In contrast, the recent data show that changing the liability system to the detriment of patients will not curb health care costs.
The value of malpractice payments in actual (unadjusted) dollars was the lowest since 1999. Adjusted for inflation, payments were at their lowest since 1992, a Public Citizen analysis shows.
Last year was the fifth consecutive year the number of payments has fallen and the sixth straight year in which the value of payments has fallen. In contrast, U.S. health care costs have increased every year since 1965, the earliest year for which such data exist. Between 2000 and 2009, health care spending rose 83 percent while medical malpractice payments fell 8 percent. (Both figures are in unadjusted dollars.)
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