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Medical Malpractice is Not a Factor in High U.S. Healthcare Costs

Health Affairs

According to a study published in the July/August edition of the magazine "Health Affairs," Americans pay more for healthcare than people in other countries. The study reports that for the year 2002, patients in America paid an average of $5,267 per person for healthcare. This staggering number was more than 52% higher than any other industrialized country.

The study further reports that contrary to political rhetoric and popular belief, malpractice lawsuits have very little impact on the costs Americans pay for their healthcare. In fact, the costs associated with medical malpractice account for less than 1% of the spending on healthcare. Even so called "defensive" medicine, where doctors run more tests to avoid the possibility of being sued accounted for no more than 9% of the spending.

Other highly developed countries like Canada and Australia saw increases of as much as 28% in annual total malpractice payments from 1997-2001 compared with only a 5% increase for the U.S. This study readily demonstrates that it is the price of care, not the amount of care delivered that is the difference between the U.S. and other countries. In 2001, the average medical malpractice award in the U.S. was $265,100. For the same period in Canada, the average malpractice award was $309,417 and $411,171 in the United Kingdom.