You won’t hear this from the Chamber of Commerce, the tort reform movement (i.e., insurance company funded lobbyists), or the talk radio zealots who find it convenient to target lawyers, but, according to the Medical Liability Monitor (MLM), medical malpractice insurance premiums for internists, general surgeons, and obstetrician/gynecologists decreased in 2010 for the third year in a row.
Here’s another fact you won’t hear from the crowd who say that lawsuits are causing a scarcity of doctors: the MLM also reports that there has been a decline in the frequency of medical malpractice lawsuits that began about seven years ago and has continued into 2010. Medical schools are inundated with applicants. If lawsuits have driven away the doctors, one would expect that medical school enrollment would be way down. Like the rest of the "frivolous lawsuit" mythology, the myth that lawsuits have driven all the doctors away is not true. Lawsuits and malpractice premiums are down. Add to that the fact that states like Virginia have a statutory cap on the amount one can even recover from a negligent doctor, and the evidence against tort reform mounts.
For example, in Virginia, an obstetrician could show up to the hospital intoxicated, botch a delivery causing permanent brain injury to a baby, and be protected by a cap that limits his or her exposure to around $2 million, depending upon the year in which the malpractice was committed. Thus, the brain damaged child could require life long institutional care, costing the family or the state tens of millions of dollars, yet the recovery would be capped at $2 million. Any verdict above $2 million, will be reduced by the trial judge. Having purchased a malpractice insurance policy for $2 million, the doctor is bullet proof. Oh, and by the way, while premiums and lawsuits are declining, the incidents of medical errors continues to rise.