Despite all the fingers pointed toward malpractice litigation as a cause of rising healthcare expenses, total malpractice payments made on behalf of doctors in 2009--$3.49 billion--represent just 0.14 of 1 percent of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' estimated $2.5 trillion in overall U.S. healthcare spending for the same year, according to a consumer advocacy association's analysis of National Practitioner Data Bank records.
According to the nonprofit Public Citizen, last year was the fifth consecutive year that the number of payments has fallen and the sixth straight year in which the value of payments has decreased, landing 2009 as the year with the lowest-valued malpractice payments since 1999 (if adjusted for inflation, since 1992). In contrast, U.S. healthcare costs have risen every year since 1965, the first year the data was recorded.
Although studies have shown that injuries and deaths caused by medical mistakes far exceed the number of actual malpractice claims filed, Public Citizen asserts that proposed "health courts" to resolve malpractice cases would cost several times the current figures if administered fairly.
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