The Myth of the Medical Malpractice “Crisis”

For years the medical malpractice insurance companies have been complaining about the medical malpractice “crisis”
in Massachusetts. High insurance rates, they complain, are driving physicians out of the state, making specialists hard to find.

But now there is good news: The insurance crisis does not exist! In fact, when adjusted for inflation, medical malpractice insurance rates are, on average, dropping in Massachusetts, according to a recent report from Suffolk University. The study examined rates for a thirty year period, and compared rates from 1990 to rates in 2005.

And while insurance rates did go up for the smallest handful of specialties– obstetricians, neurologists, and orthopedists doing spinal surgery, comprising 4% of all doctors–other
physicians enjoyed the effect of lower rates. Medical malpractice rates within those specialties did not always go up, because the highest rates were reserved for the riskiest practices.

In the words of the lead author of the study, Marc Rodwin, “If you don’t find a crisis here, you’re probably not going to find one nationally.”

Medical malpractice insurance premiums are a very small part of the overall cost of health care. Year-to-year fluctuations in malpractice premiums relate largely to economic factors, such as
the stock market, as opposed to claims paid by the insurance companies. All doctors in Massachusetts are required to have medical malpractice insurance.

More information
Most Mass. doctors face lower cost for malpractice coverage, Boston Globe
Study Shows No Malpractice Premium Crisis For Massachusetts (second article)