A fantastic editorial published in the Des Moines Register touches on a very common malpractice myth. The article is entitled “Physician numbers in Iowa not simple as politicians say; It's a myth malpractice drives them away.”
The article was inspired by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s 2015 171-page-long state budget proposal. In an early section, entitled “Helping Keep Doctors in Iowa,” Gov. Branstad is concerned that Iowa has too few doctors per 100,000 residents—a category in which Iowa ranks 46th in the number of internal medicine doctors, 47th in pediatric doctors, and 50th in emergency medicine doctors. However, despite the lower number of physicians, the state of Iowa consistently receives high marks in quality of health care.
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Reform
Where Gov. Branstad utterly fails in his proposed initiatives lies in “efforts to reform malpractice litigation,” including a cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. A survey conducted by the Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine demonstrates why that is so—the surveyors succeeded in tracking down 220 physicians who moved away from Iowa between 2007 and 2008 ask asked them why they left. Out of the 220 doctors, only one (1) indicated that their reason for relocation was professional liability exposure—a grand total of .0045%.
Medical Malpractice Laws in Other States
Studies among physicians in other states have largely reached the same result—doctors are not leaving due to malpractice litigation or the cost of malpractice insurance. New York’s Center for Health Workforce Studies found that only 3% of non-primary care physicians and only 1% of primary care physicians leave the state due to the cost of malpractice insurance.
Medical Malpractice Reform Does Not Increase Physician Supply
Illustrating the same point is the result of medical malpractice reform in the state of Texas. The Texas legislature enacted caps on compensation for injured patients in the year 2003. Studies have shown that this legislation has had absolutely no effect on physician supply throughout the state. In fact, the study was so conclusive that a very vocal proponent of medical malpractice reform later declared, “I remain skeptical . . . but I, for one, am going to stop claiming that Texas tort reform increased doctor supply without better data demonstrating that.”
Medical Malpractice Lawsuits