Malpractice Coverage Rates For Massachusetts Physicians Low

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Physiciansin Massachusettspay lower premium rates for malpractice coverage than they did in 1990, despiteprevious claims that high rates are causing them to leave the state, accordingto a study published in the current issue of Health Affairs, the Boston Globe reports. For the study, researchersat Suffolk University'sLaw School, led by health policy scholarMarc Rodwin, examined data on state physicians from 1975 to 2005. The data wereprovided by ProMutual Group, which offers insurance for abouthalf the physicians in the state.

The study found that Massachusetts rankedfourth in the U.S.for the amount paid out for malpractice-related settlements. While higherpayments could lead to higher premium rates, the premium rates for coverage in2005 averaged $17,810, compared with $17,907 for similar coverage in 1990,after the rates were adjusted for inflation, the study found.

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In addition, the study found that physicians who specialized inobstetrics/gynecology, neurological surgery and orthopedics involving spinalsurgery, who accounted for 4% of practicing physicians in the state,experienced the greatest fluctuations in premium rates. Average rates forphysicians in those specialties in 1990 increased from $66,220 to $95,045 in2005 after they were adjusted for inflation.

Rodwin said, "If you don't find a crisis here, you're probably not goingto find one nationally," adding, "Clearly there are some increases inpremiums and high premiums for a small percentage of doctors in three specialtygroups, but that's entirely different for the rest of doctors."

Bruce Auerbach, president of the MassachusettsMedical Society,said that malpractice premiums are one of the many pressures that the state'spracticing physicians face. Auerbach said, "The issue of the malpracticecrisis is not purely a premium-based issue, although we certainly havedocumented the high cost of liability insurance is a major factor in(physicians') perspective on the practice environment," adding, "Ithink to some degree looking at malpractice premiums ... may provide an unfairpicture of what is really going on" (Cooney, Boston Globe,5/15).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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