MONDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- In states that have enacted tort reform to cap total or non-economic medical malpractice payments, costs and premiums tend to be lower, according to a report in the May/June issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.
Janelle Guirguis-Blake, M.D., from the Tacoma Family Medicine Residency Program in Washington, and colleagues examined malpractice payments in every state and the District of Columbia reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank from 1999 to 2001 to evaluate the effects of tort reform on payments and insurance premiums.
Malpractice payments varied widely among states but payments and premiums tended to be lower in states with total and non-economic damage caps. Average payments were 26 percent lower in states with total caps ($196,495 versus $265,554) and 22 percent lower in states with non-economic damage caps ($219,225 versus $279,849). Total and non-economic damage caps were associated with lower annual insurance premiums, especially for obstetricians.
"If tied to a comprehensive plan for reform, the money saved could be diverted to implement alternative approaches to patient compensation or be used to achieve other systems reform benefiting patients, employers, physicians and hospitals," the authors conclude.