Medical Malpractice: A Convert Tells Her Story

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE: A CONVERT TELLS HER STORY….Like many states, Florida is in the grips of the dreaded medical malpractice “crisis,” so their legislature is holding hearings. But with a twist:

The state Senate, in a rare state of alertness, held two days of hearings with the unusual proviso that witnesses testify under oath.

….What happened after that “was pretty scary,” said Sen. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, the Senate minority leader.

“People who had testified before us on previous occasions got up there and told us different things.”

The president of the state’s largest malpractice-insurance company said no, insurers didn’t need a cap on jury awards to be profitable. A state regulator said no, there hasn’t been an explosion of frivolous lawsuits.

A state insurance regulator surprised senators by saying he often depended on insurance companies’ information when deciding whether to raise rates. “So you rely on the fox to guard the henhouse,” grumbled Sen. Walter “Skip” Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale.

And guess what? Contrary to stories of doctors quitting the business, the number of licensed doctors is increasing. A Health Department official said new applications for new medical licenses in Florida rose from 2,261 in fiscal 2000 to 2,658 in fiscal 2003.

Via the Bloviator, we learn that Medpundit, who used to read this kind of stuff and dismiss it as partisan propaganda, is taking a second look (link bloggered; look for “Road to Damascus Moment”):

Yesterday, I discovered that the rate for my insurance went up again, by $6,000. In May, a year’s worth of coverage from my current insurance company was $8,000 a year. In June, the price went up to $15,000 a year. Now, in July, they’re saying it’s $21,000 a year.

…. it strains belief to think that the insurance company has to increase premiums by several thousand dollars a month to make ends meet. We live in a litiginous world, but the jury awards and lawsuits haven’t been exploding at that rapid a rate.

Indeed they haven’t.

It’s puzzling to me that the medical industry is in bed so tightly with the insurance industry. I mean, I realize that doctors are naturally going to hate trial lawyers, but these periodic malpractice crises are so obviously manufactured, and the premium increases so obviously unrelated to actual increases in payouts, that surely more doctors ought to be suspicious that maybe the insurance companies really aren’t their friends? It does indeed strain belief to think that payouts have spiked so viciously just in the past year that an insurance company would have to raise rates 150% in the course of two months.

Doctors need to wake up. And legislatures ought to make testifying under oath standard practice.

UPDATE: Dwight Meredith has a few more details.