Medical Malpractice:

Experience with Efforts to Address Problems

T-HRD-93-24: Published: May 20, 1993. Publicly Released: May 20, 1993.

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GAO discussed the effects of medical malpractice problems on health care and malpractice insurance costs and quality and the reform of the health care system. GAO noted that: (1) insurance premiums have increased due to the increase in the number and cost of malpractice claims, which in turn has affected the availability of malpractice insurance and medical services; (2) state licensing boards have taken few disciplinary actions against negligent or impaired physicians despite the large number of fatalities and serious injuries; (3) federal legislation has provided for a database to keep track of disciplinary actions by states, hospitals or other institutions, and medical malpractice claims against licensed physicians; (4) the tort system has not effectively deterred negligent behavior because most injured patients do not file claims, which take years to settle and are paid by insurers; (5) providers may be practicing more defensive medicine in the face of high malpractice insurance costs and litigation threats, but how that affects costs and quality of care is unknown; (6) quality assurance programs may reduce malpractice in hospitals; (7) states have primarily used tort reform to address medical malpractice problems and have somewhat reduced the number of claims and the size of awards and settlements; and (8) other efforts to reduce malpractice and its attendant costs include risk management programs, practice guidelines, arbitration, and no-fault programs for obstetrical services.

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