Increased Malpractice Insurance Rates Force Trauma Centers to Close, Hamper Access to Specialty Care
In a front-page story today, the Los Angeles Times examines the impact that increased medical malpractice insurance has had on patient care and trauma centers. The increase in malpractice insurance rates -- up 400% in some states -- began after the Minnesota-based St. Paul Cos., the nation's second largest malpractice insurer, announced last December that the company would no longer sell malpractice insurance. St. Paul posted a $1 billion loss in the company's malpractice insurance business last year. As a result, other malpractice insurance companies began "charging much higher rates to avoid the losses" that St. Paul reported, the Times reports. Physicians who perform the "highest-risk procedures," including obstetricians, specialty surgeons and emergency room doctors, face the largest increases in malpractice insurance rates. Many physicians receive reimbursements for procedures set by the government and private insurance companies, and hence they cannot "pass the additional costs along to patients." Many doctors have moved to states that have passed laws that cap the amount of damages awarded in malpractice lawsuits and, as a result, offer less expensive malpractice insurance policies. The loss of doctors in other areas has prompted hospitals nationwide to close maternity wards and trauma centers, the Times reports. In addition, many patients cannot find specialists to provide treatment (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 3/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.