Insurance companies and tort reform groups have dominated countless health care debates with assertions of a “medical liability crisis.” But an analysis of new American Medical Association data rejects the myth that tort reform attracts more doctors, adding to a growing body of research that proves physicians are not fleeing the profession because of medical liability.
The AMA statistics show the number of doctors continues to rise nationwide and in every state. There are now twice as many doctors per capita than when the AMA began tracking physician numbers in the 1960s. The number of doctors has risen over the last five years in all states. Only Alaska, Georgia, Montana and Utah – all with medical malpractice caps – did not outpace population growth.
The analysis also found the number of physicians per capita (100,000 population) was 13 percent higher in states without caps. This finding echoes research from the Commonwealth Fund and the American College of Emergency Physicians, which found health care quality and patient safety are far worse in states that have eliminated accountability through tort reform measures.
Additionally, specialties saw significant increases in the number of doctors. Neurosurgeons, OB/GYNS and emergency room doctors, frequently portrayed as “high-risk practice areas,” all increased over the last five years nationally.
Past quotes from the AMA:
“Our medical liability system is broken. Skyrocketing medical liability premiums – $200,000 year or more in some high-risk specialties – are forcing physicians to limit services, retire early, or move to a state with reforms where premiums are more stable. The crisis is threatening access to care for patients.” -William G. Plested III, President-elect, AMA, 9/2005.
“Because of the sky-high cost of liability insurance, physicians throughout the country have been forced to limit their practices, stop delivering babies and some are even leaving the practice of medicine completely.” -Yank Coble, President, AMA, 2/2003.
As an example of the error of this logic, Colorado was one of the first, and most aggressive, states in adopting limits on medical malprctice lawsuits. But the state, more than a decade after adopting such limitations, has a severe shortage of physicians in the rural areas. Clearly the above statements are not supported by the data.