amednews: :: Aug. 22, 2011 … American Medical News: www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/08/22/prsb0822.htm
Ten years ago, Mississippi was known as a "lawsuit haven." Medical literature cites the state as suffering one of the worst physician shortages in the country because of skyrocketing insurance premiums.
But state tort reforms, including a $500,000 cap on noneconomic damages, have led to reductions in claims filed by plaintiffs and premiums paid by doctors, a study shows.
The study, published in the August Obstetrics & Gynecology, compared lawsuits against doctors in all specialties before and after tort reforms were adopted in 2003. The study examined physicians covered by the Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi, the largest medical liability insurer in the state. The company insures more than 75% of Mississippi’s physicians.
From 2000 to 2004, an average of 318 lawsuits were filed each year against doctors covered by insurer. From 2005 to 2009, that figure dropped to 140. For obstetrician-gynecologists, an average of 44 suits were filed yearly from 2000 to 2004. From 2005 to 2009, the average decreased to 15.
Insurance premiums also dropped considerably after tort reform efforts, the study found. From 2000 to 2004, premiums for all specialties escalated by 98%. In 2005, there was no change in rates. But between 2006 and 2010, premiums decreased from 5% to 20% each year.
After Mississippi passed tort reform, the average annual number of lawsuits dropped from 318 to 140.
The findings prove how significant tort reforms in Mississippi have been, said study author Mark A. Behrens, a Washington-based attorney and co-counsel for the American Tort Reform Assn. The organization supports damages caps and other tort reform measures.
"Common sense suggested that [award limits] would result in lower payments by insurers and that free market forces would ensure that those savings would be passed on to physicians," he said. "The reductions in Mississippi as a result of tort reform, both in terms of the number of lawsuits filed and the premiums paid by physicians, were quite dramatic."