Claims of professional liability against hospitals are typically stable in terms of frequency. A recent report suggests that the volume of massive awards and settlements is increasing in Maryland and other regions. Claims valued at $2 million or less has remained constant; however, those exceeding $5 million are increasing.
Virginia Jones, speaking on behalf of the American Society for Health Care Risk Management, says that smaller claims appear to merely rise with inflation. Meanwhile, one in every 200 claims exceeded $10 million during 2016 and 2017. She explained that $3 million claims are now often settling for $5 million and the pattern continues as the value rises from there.
Malpractice Claims Severity
A database compiled by Beazley of professional liability data shows a “new normal” for the severity (high value) of claims. One example is Illinois' Cook County (Chicago) area, which had a 99th percentile of $11.8 million. In comparison, New Jersey's 99th percentile was $3.8 million. What was particularly surprising was that Maryland's claim severity is trending closer to Cook County's in recent years.
Source of Severe Claims
One known source of costly claims involves obstetric providers, largely stemming from birth complications and birth-related injuries. Claims against OB/GYNs comprise roughly 14% of all settled claims; however, this percentage surges to 46% in claims that exceeded $10 million. Approximately 30% of claims exceeding $10 million are originating as a result of surgical procedures. The third-largest cause involves patient visits to the emergency room.
Maryland Hospital Revenues
The Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission posted a report showing the state's hospitals are stable in terms of revenues and profits. The following data shows the increases for the financial period ending in March 2018 over the same period in 2017:
- Total hospital revenues from all-payers had risen by 3.1%
- Gross revenues associated with Medicare increased 2.65%
- Average operational profits for acute facilities rose 2.66%
- Median profits for hospitals increased 3.41%
Maryland Hospitals “Dumping” Patients & Cutting Mental Health Services
Despite facing the continued burden of medical malpractice-related costs, hospitals have maintained revenues and profitability through some potentially problematic methods. The University of Maryland Medical Center was the subject of a federal inquiry regarding the practice of “patient dumping”.
This occurs when a medical facility discharges certain patients earlier than they should. Many of these patients are costly to care for, often facing mental health concerns, unlikely to have a means of paying for care and are likely to be homeless or undocumented. Patients with mental health issues are among the more costly today due to reductions and limitations in Medicaid coverage for inpatient psychiatric care.
Initiating Medical Malpractice Actions in Maryland
Those pursuing claims of professional medical negligence must submit documentation from a medical expert contending that grounds for such a claim are warranted. Defendants served with this documentation have 120 days to produce a medical expert that feels the provider had acted in accordance with the current standards for medical care.
Maryland is among only a few states that recognize the concept of contributory negligence in these actions—a benefit to defendants. If the defense can show that the plaintiff demonstrated any negligence that caused the injuries than the entire claim is barred. This is another example of why those seeking recovery for damages in these civil matters should do so with assistance from an experienced legal professional.