In the Boston Globe story, the researchers say that a more likely explanation for the escalation is that malpractice insurance companies have raised doctors' premiums to compensate for falling investment returns:
The Dartmouth economists studied actual payments made to patients between 1991 and 2003, the results of which were published yesterday in the journal Health Affairs. Some previous studies have examined jury awards, which often are reduced after trial to comply with doctors' insurance coverage maximums or because the plaintiff settles for less money to avoid an appeal. Researchers found that payments grew an average of 4 percent annually during the years covered by the study, or 52 percent overall since 1991, but only 1.6 percent a year since 2000. The increases are roughly equivalent to the overall rise in healthcare costs, said Amitabh Chandra, lead author and an assistant professor of economics at the New Hampshire college. ***But remember med-mal caps will solve everything because the problems of Illinois doctors are caused by the greedy victims of medical malpractice -- not the highly profitable insurance companies.
''It's not payments that's causing this," Chandra said. ''The simple explanation that comes to mind is the [insurance] underwriting cycle. If they're making less money from the investment side of things, it's going to cause [insurance companies] to raise rates."