We are hearing it again this year: doctors are leaving the state because we don't have caps on damages in medical malpractice cases. When pressed for evidence on this point, a doctor will refer to "some guy in Memphis" or "some woman in Knoxville" who quit practicing medicine because of the risk of being sued.
Set aside the fact that the risk of being sued exists whether there are damage caps or not. Are doctors leaving the state?
Well, consider this. In 1975, at the time of the first medical malpractice crisis, Tennessee had 11.3 doctors of medicine in patient care for every 10,000 residents.
As of 2005, the number jumped to 24.1 for every 10,000 residents.
That's right, the number of doctors per Tennessean has increase by about 120% in the last thirty years.
And how does that compare with the nation as a whole? For once, Tennessee is above the national average of 23.8 doctors for every 10,000 residents.
But there are more doctors in states that have caps on damages, right? I mean, that's where doctors want to live, right?
The facts in some "caps" states:
Mississippi - 16.5 per 10,000
Texas - 19.4 per 10,000
Missouri - 21.5 per 10,000
North Dakota 22.3 per 10,000
Colorado - 23.6 per 10,000
Louisana - 23.2 per 10,000
California - 23.3 per 10,000
You see, I think doctors think about about factors in selecting a place to live than just the risk of being sued. They think about climate, location of family, familiarity, income opportunties, quality of life and all the things most other people think about if they are fortunate enough to select where they want to live.
Source: Health, United States, 2007 as published by the CDC. Go to PDF page 372.