The number of medical malpractice claims filed and paid is declining in Missouri, yet physicians’ premiums are rising, according to a report from the state Insurance Department. New medical malpractice claims dropped 14 percent in 2003 to what the department said was a record low, and total payouts to medical malpractice plaintiffs fell to $93.5 million in 2003, a drop of about 21 percent from the previous year.
“Payments in 2002 took an unexplained jump that vanished in 2003. Unfortunately, this data does not explain why the current medical malpractice crisis in cost and availability has occurred,” said Insurance Department Director Scott Lakin.
The report found that doctors’ malpractice insurance premiums rose by 121 percent between 2000 and 2003 while payouts to plaintiffs rose 14 percent during that time. A state physicians’ group, which has been lobbying for more restrictions on medical malpractice claims as a way to control rising insurance premiums, said the Insurance Department data should not be used as evidence of statewide trends.
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