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Despite outcry by doctors, medical malpractice costs decreasing

New Mexico residents who have followed the debate about health care in the U.S. can be forgiven for thinking that costs for medical malpractice insurance for physicians is extravagantly expensive. There have been many reports of doctors who claim that if rates keep going up, they could be put out of business. But does this really represent reality?

At least one doctor says it doesn't. In fact, he says that his cost for medical malpractice insurance has decreased -- and it has, on average, decreased nationally for about the last decade. He likens the amount he pays to what some people might pay for auto insurance.

In addition, the number of medical malpractice lawsuits that are filed around the country has dropped. About a decade ago, there were roughly 17,000 claims that were paid across the country to the tune of about $4.5 billion. However, by 2011, those figures had dropped to less than 10,000 claims paying out $3.2 billion.

One theory about why the cost of medical malpractice insurance contributes to increased health care costs -- even though those insurance costs have gone down -- is that doctors are ordering tests on their patients that might be necessary in order to cover all their bases.

However, if it isn't the right test, it might not be helpful. Many unfortunate people in New Mexico have felt it necessary to file a lawsuit because a hospital or doctor has failed to diagnose, or diagnosed too late, a terminal condition such as cancer. People who have been affected in this way need to know that this is still an option for them.

Source: The Huffington Post, "It Ain't the Lawyers: Medical Malpractice Costs Have Been Dropping," David Belk, Nov. 1, 2013

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