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The medical malpractice mystery - why insurance costs are skyrocketing whilst the number of claims against death and disease are decreasing.

Medical malpractice insurance is skyrocketing!

Did you know that health care providers are now paying a huge percentage more for the cost of protecting their business and their livelihood against accidental or negligent harm to their patients?

Medical malpractice insurance has become enormously more expensive over the last ten years, after previously being stable for a long period of time.

The cost of insurance is becoming such a problem that health care providers are calling for urgent and immediate reform to the system.

What is the cause of this alarming situation?

Rate increases have been brought on by the growing SIZE of patient claims.

Fewer medical malpractice claims are being filed but the dollar amount of each claim is steadily increasing.

Studies by insurance companies in 2005 found that medical malpractice claims in dollar amounts are still growing at 7.5-percent a year, but the number of individual claims has declined. For the first time in the history of the report, the frequency trend indicates a one percent decrease in claims for both hospitals and physicians.

Four states - Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and California - that are leading the decline in frequency have each enacted some form of legislative reform that has limited the amount of non-economic rewards (such as for pain and suffering) that patients can receive.

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Among the other factors driving up prices was a reduced supply of available coverage, as several major insurers exited the medical malpractice business because of the difficulty of making a profit.

The insurance industry has been involved in legal cases seeking a cap in overall compensation for injuries received through medical malpractice. Premium increases may be moderating but there must still be reforms in the liability system, industry observers say.

What is medical malpractice?

Medical malpractice occurs when a negligent act by a doctor or other medical professional results in harm to a patient. This negligence can usually occurs when there is a failure or delay to diagnose a disease which standard medical practice would have diagnosed, and can also include an error in illness management.

Malpractice could involve an accident in a surgical operation or an anesthesia used in an operation. Alternatively the doctor may have failed or refused to use a procedure or treatment necessary to treat a disease. Other cases involve dangers or problems with drug therapies that were not fully disclosed, causing injury or death to patients.

According to the International Insurance Institute Medical malpractice began to become a major issue in terms of physician costs in the mid 1970s. This is the same time that the Nixon Administration and such politicians as New York’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan pushed the Health Maintenance Organization laws.

Some think that up to 80,000 people a year die because of bad or no diagnosis of diseases. However, these statistics are based on autopsies; it may not have been possible to find the medical problem while the person was alive.

Medical malpractice can also be charged against nurses and other medical personnel and the hospitals that are producing the service. The attorney filing the case must be experienced in reviewing and comprehending medical records if he is to succeed in filing such a claim.

It is believed that only a small percentage of medical malpractice victims file lawsuits. The Harvard School of Public Health found that only about 12-percent of patients who were victims of malpractice go on to file law suits.

This is probably due to the cost and difficulty involved in filing a malpractice claim. Malpractice can be extremely hard to prove in court in some cases – and even in clear cases full medical histories and records need to be produced.

Of course, malpractice laws are designed to protect patients' rights to pursue compensation if they are injured as the result of negligence. While theoretically, you can seek compensation for any injury caused by negligence, regardless of its seriousness, time and money make it unrealistic to sue for an injury that is minor or resolves quickly.

Medical malpractice has become more and more of a political football. It is alleged that it is making it impossible for physicians to practice medicine in many states because of the huge fees for medical malpractice insurance. On the other hand, certain specialties like obstetrics are particularly hard hit.

Medical malpractice is a big problem, but it is also a very EXPENSIVE problem for doctors and insurance companies.

Unless there is reform covering the entire system, insurance costs will continue to rise. It is likely that we will see health care professionals leaving the industry entirely, while those who do stay will be forced to pass on their growing insurance costs to their patients.

Left unchecked, the medical malpractice insurance situation can only worsen the disease of a collapsing medical system.