Tuesday, June 14, 2011

NYT Makes Stuff Up on Medical Malpractice

William Glaberson's front-pager in Monday's NYTimes ("To Curb Malpractice Costs, Judges Jump In Early") has quite a stunner:
The approach, known as judge-directed negotiation, is seen by the Obama administration as offering states a way to curb liability expenses that have sharply increased health care costs nationally.
To understand why this is factually incorrect, you might look to... The New York Times! Here's David Leonhardt, writing in 2009:
The direct costs of malpractice lawsuits — jury awards, settlements and the like — are such a minuscule part of health spending that they barely merit discussion, economists say.
All told, jury awards, settlements and administrative costs — which, by definition, are similar to the combined cost of insurance — add up to less than $10 billion a year. This equals less than one-half of a percentage point of medical spending. There have been years when malpractice payouts rose sharply, but there have also been years when they did not. Over the last two decades, the amount has increased roughly in line with total medical spending, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs, based on a national database.
It's one thing for Glaberson, who covers courts, and not health policy, to make such a mistake. It's entirely another for the top editors vetting page 1 stories to let such an error through.

(For more, see USAToday's 2003 epic, "Hype outraces facts in malpractice debate").


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