What Are the Best Ways to Control Medical Liability Costs?

Experts estimate that medical liability suits cost the U.S. health care system an annual total of about $56 billion in direct litigation costs and the indirect costs of defensive medicine.

About a decade ago, medical liability insurance premiums were rising fast. Medical providers and insurers said liability costs were making health care more expensive and hurting access to care. Other medical experts said malpractice claims were high because of systemic patient safety problems.

States have responded by passing a variety of laws to curb suits and some hospital systems have adopted alternative ways to resolve cases.

Yet dissatisfaction with the current liability system remains widespread because of its relatively high cost and flawed performance in quickly and fairly compensating injured patients.

This Health Policy Snapshot, published online in January 2012, examines new approaches that are being tested to resolve medical liability cases.

Read more from RWJF's Health Policy Snapshot series.

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Med liability suits cost US ~56 bil in direct litigation & indirect cost of defensive medicine