According to a newly released analysis, payouts on medical malpractice claims (consisting of jury verdicts and settlements) made up just 0.25% of U.S. health care costs in 2011. The report was prepared by Diederich Healthcare, a national medical malpractice insurer, with information recorded by the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Here’s how it breaks down…

  • Total U.S. health care costs are now more than $2 trillion, having quadrupled over the last 20 years.
  • Medical malpractice awards reached $3.6 billion in 2011, roughly equal to 2010, yet down 25% from their peak of $4.8 billion in 2003.
  • Six states (California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) made up 51.4% of 2011 payouts.

So what’s the takeaway?

Contrary to misconceptions propagated in the media, Congress, state legislatures, and elsewhere, neither tort reform nor trial lawyers have any meaningful impact on escalating healthcare costs. Injured patients have rights and deserve zealous representation in our legal system, and the dollars associated with lawyers successfully advocating on their behalf is almost infinitesimal compared to the costs imposed by hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, insurers, and other more prominent players in the industry.

The bottom line is that the process of fairly compensating victims of medical errors under the current tort system is not driving up health care costs; health care providers and suppliers are. There simply is no justification for attempting to do away with a system that attempts to compensate those damaged by medical errors so they can go about their lives without becoming a burden on some other government program such as Medicaid or Medicare.