Kaiser Family Foundation Study Contradicts Insurance Industry Claims

The American Trial Lawyers Association
June 2005
Posted October 17, 2005

Slow Growth in Malpractice Payments Outpaced by Physician Increase
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study finds that medical malpractice payments have been growing at a slow rate, while the number of practicing doctors has been on the rise. The study supports the conclusions of numerous other studies on malpractice payments, including a new study by researchers at Dartmouth College, which found that slow growing malpractice payments had remained under 0.3% of health care spending for over ten years.1

Principal Findings
Similarly the Kaiser Family Foundation study found:

  • Total malpractice payments increased by only 1.7% annually between 1991 and 2003, when adjusted for medical care inflation, and have actually fallen an average of 4% per year since 2001.

  • At the same time, the number of physicians rose 31%, from 623,378 in 1992 to 814,909 in 2003.

  • The stable frequency of malpractice payments, combined with the increase in the number of practicing physicians, produced a 25 % decrease in the average number of claims per physician.

  • By 2003 the average number of claims had dropped to 1.88 for every 100 physicians.

Diminishing Claims
The study's lead author, Peter Budetti, said, "For most doctors, there is a perception of a serious problem. [But] the likelihood of having a claim paid on your behalf over the years has diminished."2


  1. Amitabh Chandra, Shantanu Nundy, Seth A. Seabury, The Growth of Physician Medical Malpractice Payments: Evidence from the National Practitioner Data Bank, Health Affairs, May 31, 2005
  2. Los Angeles Times, 6/1

Copyright © 2005 ATLA

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