Even with High Premiums, Doctors Still Need Medical Malpractice Insurance

Medical malpractice insurance is a form of professional liability insurance. This type of insurance charges policyholders, a premium in return for the promise to pay for losses covered under the policy terms. In plain English, if a doctor or other medical professional purchases a medical malpractice insurance policy, the insurance will pay for court costs, and any other covered damages in a claim against the policyholder. One example of costs that may be paid under these policies is personal injury damages for medical errors.

Medical Liability Insurance Required by Law

Most states require malpractice insurance to practice medicine. For the professional who cannot find coverage due to past judgments, it may jeopardize his or her ability to continue in their career.

These days, no professional is safe without liability insurance. Medical practitioners are no exception to this rule. Most of them know this fact already. Even if they have not personally been party to a lawsuit, they know someone who has been involved in a costly court case.

Premium Costs Rising

In some states, doctors are paying between $100,000 and $300,000 each year in insurance premiums. Costs vary greatly depending on the state in which they practice. No matter how rich a doctor is, premiums that high make it hard to do business. Even though costs have gone up, no professional should never consider doing business without the protection offered by malpractice insurance.

Even if the doctor or professional wants to drop their professional liability insurance, in most cases they will not be able to. Most states require health care professionals to carry liability insurance. Certainly, most hospitals and other healthcare facilities require their independent professionals to carry insurance if they practice in their organizations.

Medical groups and hospitals can negotiate lower premiums with insurance companies. Medical professionals who work for these organizations typically participate in an organization’s liability insurance. This is one way medical professionals can keep their liability costs down.

Who is most at risk for high insurance premiums? The answer is physicians who regularly perform high risk procedures. They are emergency room doctors, neurosurgeons, obstetricians/gynecologists, and orthopedic surgeons. Some of the top premiums paid by these doctors are up to $300,000 per year. In some states, the specialists are leaving for greener pastures in increasing numbers. In other words, to stay in business they choose to practice in another state. Others are taking to the streets protesting for reform.

What Are the Choices?

Many healthcare professionals are left with difficult choices. Some choose to retire, which is a loss for all those who need qualified medical professionals to care for their illnesses. Other doctors and professionals move to states that have enacted tort reform thereby lowering insurance premiums. Once again, the states that lose these medical professionals have people that end up suffering due to the lack of quality care available. Some physicians choose to stop performing high-risk procedures. This leaves patients with fewer options and overloads the schedules of professionals who continue to offer high-risk procedures.

Hospitals and other medical facilities face similar daunting choices. A high number of trauma centers have been forced to downgrade their services and stop offering emergency care. This is unfortunate, because patients must now risk their lives traveling further to reach urgent care facilities.

Is the Public Aware?

Society holds the view that doctors are rich. Some people have little sympathy for physicians who end up in court being accused of medical negligence. Deep inside, there may even be the belief that a negligence judgment is the least that they can do for patients who have been subject to a medical error. For those who hold this belief, they would probably think differently if they face the possibility of losing their own physician.

A lot of people are talking about the rising cost of healthcare. Few people know about the problems causing some of these higher costs. Certainly, one force driving high costs is medical liability lawsuits. Average damage awards for these lawsuits now exceed $3.5 million each year. That is triple the amount of damages level in the year 1994.

It is time that state governments step up to the plate and find resolutions for healthcare providers and patients. One of the first steps they can take is to initiate tort reform. This does not mean that a claimant would have no case against a provider. It typically involves setting a cap on the amount that can be awarded to a plaintiff for things like pain and suffering. A number of other steps can be taken to help struggling medical facilities and professionals. Arbitration is one solution that can keep damage award costs down. Requiring separate medical boards to review cases may be another option to investigate.

Solutions must be found now for the health of patients and the financial stability of those who provide quality medical care.