Where’s the beef?
Rep. Rob Briley lead an effort to make medical malpractice insurers and health care providers to reveal to the State of Tennessee what their claims experience was. Malpractice insurers and health care providers fought this type of disclosure for almost two decades and, given what was disclosed, one can understand why they did so.
The first report came out yesterday, and it is of no particular surprise to anyone who does medical malpractice legal work.
* Total medical malpractice verdicts against health care providers in Tennessee in 2004: 6
* Total judgments paid on those 6 cases: $1,958,648
* Total dollars paid in judgements and settlements: $110,292,183
* Average settlement or judgment amount in the 444 cases that were resolved by settlement or judgment in 2004: $243,944
* Cases closed with no payment whatsover: 1,916
* Average payment per case closed with or without payment: $45,904
* Pending claims in the State: 5255
* Total reserves for those cases: $730,939,171
So, 444 paid claims in 2004 in a state with more than 5,900,000 residents. Less than 5 people per county.
Now, when you think about that remember this: Studies show that some 90,000 people per year die as a result of medical malpractice. Assuming that Tennessee has no more or no fewer deaths per capita from malpractice than any other state that means that almost 2000 Tennesseans died from malpractice in 2004.
And there were 444 settlements for deaths and injuries.
By definition that means more than 1500 people in Tennessee died as a result of medical negligence and their families were not compensated in any way. It may be that none of those families wanted to pursue legal action, and that of course is their right, but it is just as likely that they were never given an accurate explanation of why their loved one died.
We need medical malpractice reform – but directed at ways of stopping malpractice, not towards restricting the rights of the victims of it.
One last point. This report is but a snapshot – one year’s worth of data. We need 8 or 10 years worth of data to make any accurate judgment about the true state of medical malpractice payouts. However, we had to start somewhere and, with Rep. Briley’s continued leadership, we will have a solid knowledge base in 8 to 10 more years.