The Cost of Medical Liability Claims

The Cost of Medical Liability Claims

34% of physicians have been sued:

The AMA released three new trend reports demonstrating the high frequency and cost burden of medical liability claims.

“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,” David O. Barbe, MD, MHA, president of AMA, said in a press release. “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.”

In the first report, the AMA evaluated how often physicians are subjected to medical liability claims. The report found that it is common for physicians to get sued, with 34% having a claim filed against them during their career. The likelihood of getting sued increases with age — almost half (49.2%) of physicians aged 55 years and older have been sued vs. 8.2% of physicians aged 40 years and younger.

The occurrence of liability claims varies greatly between specialties, according to the report. General surgeons and OB/GYNs have the greatest risk of being sued, whereas pediatricians have the lowest risk. More than half of general surgeons and OB/GYNs have been sued before the age of 55 years.

“Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, the heavy cost associated with a litigious climate takes a significant financial toll on our health care system when the nation is working to reduce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

The second report examined indemnity payments, expenses and claim disposition and found that the average expense incurred on medical liability claims increased 64.5% from 2006 to 2015, amounting to $54,165. Dropped, dismissed or withdrawn claims (68.2% of all claims in 2015) still contributed to the cost burden, averaging a cost of $30,475 per claim in 2015 and contributing to 38.4% of total expenses, according to the report.

In the third report, the AMA assessed the annual changes in medical liability insurance premiums from 2008 to 2017. The report revealed that more premiums increased than decreased since 2015, which was a reversal of the trend observed earlier in the study. In addition, 12% to 17% of premiums rose from the prior year since 2010.

 

 

 

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