The average payment in physician malpractice lawsuits grew roughly at the same rate as the cost of healthcare from 1991 to 2003, or about 4% annually, according to one of two studies on malpractice published online by the journal Health Affairs. The study authors said their finding indicated that certain data like multimillion-dollar jury awards distort the national debate. "A preoccupation with data on judgments, extreme awards or specific specialties results in an incomplete understanding of the growth of physician malpractice payments," they said. The second study found that counties in states with caps on noneconomic damages had 2.2% more physicians per capita (about five per 100,000 population), while rural counties in those states had 3.2% more physicians per capita. The strictest caps -- $250,000 -- appeared to have an even greater effect in boosting the supply of surgeons and obstetrician-gynecologists in rural areas, the study said. Read the studies. -- by Michael Romano
Studies look at malpractice judgments, damages caps
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