Saturday, November 16, 2002

Apparently, the incoming Congress not only has asbestos on the mind, but is planning on attacking the individual's right to bring medical malpractice claims. For years medical malpractice insurance companies and less-informed members of the American Medical Association have tried to blame "excessive litigation" and "high jury verdicts" as reasons for high medical malpractice insurance premiums. I don't really blame the doctors because if I were a physician, I'd be frustrated too. Recent facts though show that medical malpractice insurers lie - big surprise it's all about money. They are calling on Congress to enact irrational caps on damages. Not coincidently, such caps increase insurer profits. In fact, an ally of the medical malpractice insurance industry, The Wall Street Journal, recently revealed some truths as did the Denver Post. An October 11, 2002 article in the Post described how "Insurance companies have exaggerated the impact of malpractice claims to increase doctors' premiums." The article reports: "Once adjusted for inflation, insurance company losses linked to malpractice payments have remained stable over the last 30 years, according to the study. So, there is no truth to insurance and medical industry claims that an explosion in jury awards has fostered an escalation in physician premiums....."

The Wall Street Journal blames insurers' bad accounting and greed as having a "big effect on premiums." It stated that when the stock market's bull market ended, investment gains that covered up bad insurance practices disappeared and some doctors' medical malpractice insurance premiums sky-rocketed. Moreover, the article confirms that "doctors and hospitals win [medical malpractice lawsuits] about 62% of the time." It states "Some doctors are beginning to acknowledge that the conventional focus on jury awards deflects attention from the insurance industry's behavior. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for the first time is conceding that carriers' business practices have contributed to the current problem...." A CEO from a leading malpractice insurer was quoted as stating: "I don't like to hear insurance-company executives say it's the tort [injury-law] system -- it's self-inflicted."