The most frequently echoed myth concerning medical negligence is the notion that doctors are fleeing states and retiring early, creating physician shortages. Anecdotal accounts of doctors fleeing states in response to increased insurance premiums have proved to be either unrepresentative isolated events, or flat out false.
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation found that “many of the reported provider actions taken in response to malpractice pressures were not substantiated or did not widely affect access to health care … some reports of physicians relocating to other states, retiring, or closing practices were not accurate or involved relatively few physicians.”i In fact, data from the AMA shows that physician numbers have been increasing across the board for many years.
- The number of doctors is increasing. The total number of physicians in the U.S. rose to yet another record high in 2007, the most recent year for which data is available. There were 941,304 physicians in the U.S. in 2007, nearly 20,000 more than the year before.
- The number of doctors is increasing faster than population growth. The increase in physicians outpaced the increase in population once again. The number of physicians per 100,000 population is at an all-time high of 307. The increase of physician numbers compared to population growth has climbed steadily for decades. There are now twice as many physicians per 100,000 population as there were when the AMA began tracking figures in the 1960s.
- The number of physicians is increasing across the states. Despite the cries of physicians fleeing multiple states, the number of physicians increased in every state in 2007. In addition, the increase in physicians either matched or outpaced population growth in every state over the last five years.
- The ratio of doctors to population is higher in states WITHOUT caps. The number of physicians per 100,000 population is 13 percent higher in states WITHOUT caps (319 v. 283).
i Medical Malpractice: Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care, Government Accountability Office, September 29, 2003, www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-836.