The AMA also calls for the implementation and evaluation of innovative reforms to see whether they can improve the nation’s medical liability climate. The AMA has called for federal funding for pilot projects to test concepts such as health courts, liability safe harbors for the practice of evidence-based medicine, early-disclosure-and-compensation models, expert witness guidelines and affidavits of merit, and has supported legislation to enact many of these models at the state level.
More of the facts you need to know to address the broken medical liability system are available in the 2018 edition of a 36-page AMA resource, “Medical Liability Reform Now!” Among other things, that resource explores the independent research estimating that defensive medicine costs the nation’s health system at least tens of billions of dollars each year.
“Even though the vast majority of claims are dropped, dismissed or withdrawn, the heavy cost associated with a litigious climate takes a significant financial toll on our health care system when the nation is working to reduce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,” Dr. Barbe said.
Ob-gyns, surgeons at highest risk
When it comes to the risk of being sued, not all specialties are equal. General surgeons and obstetrician-gynecologists are at the greatest risk of facing medical liability lawsuits. They are three-and-a-half to four times likelier to be sued than pediatricians and psychiatrists, who are at the lowest risk of being hit with a suit. About 63 percent of ob-gyns and general surgeons have ever been sued, compared with 16 percent of psychiatrists and 18 percent of pediatricians.
Thirty-two percent of internists have ever been sued, while one-third of family practice physicians have been sued. About half (52 percent) of emergency physicians have been sued, compared with 38 percent of radiologists and 36 percent of anesthesiologists. (See table two in the report for a breakdown by specialty. Table one includes a breakdown by gender.)
The third newly released report examines annual changes in medical liability insurance premiums from 2008 to 2017, drawing from data published in the Medical Liability Monitor. While the overall picture is one of increasing stability in premiums, “the prospects for the near future are less than certain.”
That is because in the last three years of the study period, there have been more premium increases than decreases. In 2017, 13.4 percent of premiums were higher than in 2016. The trend since 2010 is that 12–17 percent of premiums rose from the prior year. Moreover, the share of premiums that has decreased from one year to the next has been falling, especially since 2015.
Premiums vary widely by practice location and specialty. In some parts of New York, for example, ob-gyns faced premiums of about $215,000. That compares with premiums of about $50,000 for their fellow ob-gyns in California, a state that pioneered caps on noneconomic damages with the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act of 1975.