Pennsylvania Doctors See Drop in Medical Malpractice Insurance Costs
It’s often used as a scapegoat for legislation that works against medical malpractice plaintiffs. It’s even been pinpointed as the reason why some doctors might recommend CT scans at the drop of a hat and why patients are struggling to keep up with skyrocketing healthcare costs. “It” is medical malpractice insurance and it has long been the bane of the healthcare community. For a profession that is, in its purest ideals, focused on the well-being of patients, the idea of paying medical malpractice premiums because a medical error may lead to a multimillion dollar jury award may be a bit unsavory to think about. However, it’s a necessary component of the healthcare system, given that physicians commit errors every day that can lead to death or lifelong disability for patients.
In recent years, Pennsylvania doctors have had a little less to complain about in terms of their premiums. According to Karen Rizzo, the president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, “Our malpractice insurance premiums are a big part of the reason why we have a difficult time retaining our young talent and keeping our more experienced doctors in the state.” In her interview with NBC, Rizzo went on to praise recent legislative efforts to curb the high costs of practicing medicine.
Trends in legislation
One of those efforts to reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums is a Pennsylvania law that was passed in 2002. The law made it more difficult for medical malpractice plaintiffs to arrange for the removal of their lawsuits to a jurisdiction known to have generous juries. By attempting to reduce the overall size of jury awards, proponents of the law hope to reduce medical malpractice insurance premiums. Unfortunately, patients themselves may end up paying in the long run, given that some medical errors can lead to the need for lifelong and extensive medical care.
Recently, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has been singing the praises of another medical malpractice reform. This particular law created stringent new rules regarding the qualifications of those who are called to serve as expert witnesses in medical malpractice trials. Again, patients themselves are expected to shoulder the burden for this law, as it may become increasingly difficult to find a qualified witness to testify that their physician breached the standard of care and caused an injury.
Another recent change to this hot-button issue is the creation of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) fund. Pennsylvania physicians have long been required to carry at least $1 million in medical malpractice insurance. Purchasing this amount of insurance through the private market may prove costly. With the establishment of the MCARE fund, physicians are able to purchase half of their required coverage through the state, which quotes them lower premiums.
The exact amount of money a physician may pay into MCARE depends largely on the medical specialty and location. For example, a neurosurgeon in Philadelphia may pay as much as $36,000. However, the amount physicians are required to pay into MCARE is expected to significantly drop next year by as much as 48 percent. That same neurosurgeon might only pay $19,000 in 2015.