Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 1, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

MALPRACTICE IN TEXAS....One of the problems with studies of medical malpractice is that there are very few good datasets to work with, especially on the federal level. However, several states keep detailed statistics. One of them is Texas, and it's one of the few to make its database open to researchers.

So four law professors, including a couple from the University of Texas, took a look at the Texas database and have now published their results. And guess what? Since 1988 the number of large claims was stable, the number of small claims declined, the number of paid claims was stable, the average payout per claim was stable, and total payouts were stable. In other words, whatever it was that's caused malpractice premiums to skyrocket, it hasn't been any actual change in malpractice awards against doctors.

But here's the hilarious part. Bohn Allen, the president of the Texas Medical Association, said the report was bogus. Statistics in the new study have "been adjusted for all kinds of things," he said.

And indeed they have. Those nefarious researchers adjusted for such things as inflation, population growth, and number of physicians. That's pretty shocking.

Or course, Allen's absurd objection raises the question once again: why is it that doctors don't realize that insurance companies are not their friends? Allen says he was forced to retire due to high malpractice premiums, and that may well be true. In fact, no one disputes that malpractice insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past few years. But the evidence continues to pile up that this isn't due to increases in either the number or size of malpractice suits. It's due to insurance company greed and incompetence.

If doctors were smart, they'd team up with trial lawyers instead of fighting them. Together, they could probably agree on both genuine malpractice reform (as opposed to bogus and ineffective "caps") and insurance industry reform. Instead, they allow themselves to be suckered over and over again by insurance industry lobbyists. It's inexplicable.

Kevin Drum 2:01 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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