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Report: Higher malpractice premiums do not mean "lack of physicians"

Are rising medical malpractice insurance premiums responsible for a shortage of physicians? A new report says they are not, and in reality, no shortage exists.

A common complaint from medical care providers, or perhaps more commonly, insurers, is that medical malpractice cases drive up the costs of being a medical practitioner and therefore lead to doctor shortages. Many states attempt to deal with this perceived problem by limiting the ability of those harmed by medical malpractice to recover full compensation for their injuries; this is accomplished by enacting medical malpractice damages caps.

However, New York numbers among the states that do not artificially limit monetary recovery for medical malpractice cases. Has this led to a shortage of physicians in New York? Hardly. According to a new report, New York has the second highest number of doctors per capita in the nation.

There are actually more doctors in New York counties with the highest premiums

The report was released in August of 2014 and was jointly produced by the nonprofit groups the Center for Medical Consumers, New Yorkers for Patient & Family Empowerment, and the New York Public Interest Research Group Fund. Endorsed by more than a half dozen other prominent advocacy groups, including the Center for Medical Consumers and the Center for Justice & Democracy, the report examined the number of physicians in the Empire State between 2004 and 2012, a time during which medical industry groups claimed the cost of medical malpractice premiums was spiraling rampantly out of control.

During the time period studied, far from declining, the number of doctors in New York increased from less than 82,000 to nearly 90,000, according to American Medical Association numbers. In less than a decade, this represented approximately a ten percent increase in the number of doctors practicing in New York State, even as 35 other states enacted or upheld limits on damages in medical malpractice cases. New York’s overall population increased by less than two percent during the same time period.

Per capita, the most recent data shows that New York has the second highest number of practicing physicians in the nation, at 345 doctors involved in patient care for every 100,000 residents. Only Massachusetts has more practicing physicians per capita.

The report also noted that while New York does not seem to have a lack of physicians overall, there is an acknowledged shortage of doctors in some rural areas of the state. However, this is not due to high medical malpractice insurance premiums; on the contrary, New York counties with the highest medical malpractice premiums (which are generally downstate) have the most doctors, and had the largest increases in the number of practicing doctors in recent years.

Getting help for malpractice victims

This report makes it clear that medical malpractice cases and corresponding insurance rate increases are not responsible for pushing doctors out of the state. Rather than trying to drive down the costs of medical malpractice by squeezing off avenues for full monetary recover for those who have been harmed by malpractice, as was proposed in New York in a 2011 state budget, lawmakers and medical industry insiders should focus on reducing the number of incidents in which harm is caused by a negligent healthcare provider.

If you have been harmed by medical malpractice, you are entitled to compensation, and you are in no way responsible for any of the shortcomings of the healthcare system. In fact, by holding negligent healthcare providers accountable in a medical malpractice lawsuit, you can actually help improve the quality of care. Talk to a New York medical malpractice attorney today if you or someone you love has suffered harm at the hands of a healthcare professional.

Keywords: malpractice, physicians, New York

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