Medical Malpractice Reform Noneconomic Damages Caps Reduced Payments 15 Percent With Varied Effects By Specialty
Author: Seth A. Seabury, Eric Helland, Anupam B. Jena
The impact of medical malpractice reforms on the average size of malpractice payments in specific physician specialties is unknown and subject to debate. We analyzed a national sample of malpractice claims for the period 1985–2010, merged with information on state liability reforms, to estimate the impact of state noneconomic damages caps on average malpractice payment size for physicians overall and for ten different specialty categories. We then compared how the effects differed according to the restrictiveness of the cap ($250,000 versus $500,000). We found that, overall, noneconomic damages caps reduced average payments by $42,980 (15 percent), compared to having no cap at all. A more restrictive $250,000 cap reduced average payments by $59,331 (20 percent), and a less restrictive $500,000 cap had no significant effect, compared to no cap at all. The effect of the caps overall varied according to specialty, with the largest impact being on claims involving pediatricians and the smallest on claims involving surgical subspecialties and ophthalmologists.