Medical Malpractice Premiums Do Not Harm Access to Care, GAO Says
Rising medical malpractice premiums do not appear to "significantly" limit access to health care by driving physicians in states with higher premiums out of practice, according to a report released on Friday by the General Accounting Office, the Washington Post reports. The GAO reviewed five states with high malpractice premiums and compared them to four states with lower premiums. Contrary to the assertion by some physicians that high malpractice premiums make it difficult for consumers to obtain care, the GAO report found no evidence that potential medical malpractice lawsuits limit access to care "on a widespread basis." While the report did uncover local problems in select specialties, the GAO found "there is no national crisis," the Post reports (Washington Post, 8/30). The report "confirmed instances in the five states of reduced hospital-based services affecting emergency surgery and newborn deliveries in scattered, often rural, areas where providers identified other long-standing factors that also affect the availability of services," but it added that "many of the provider actions were unsubstantiated" or did not affect access to care substantially ("Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care," GAO, 8/03). The American Medical Association disputed the GAO report, arguing that there is a medical liability "crisis" in about 19 states, the Post reports (Washington Post, 8/30). The GAO said, "Continuing to monitor the effect of providers' responses to rising medical malpractice on access to care will be essential, given the impact and evolving nature of this issue" ("Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care," GAO, 8/03). The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to access the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.