Lawmakers to Explore Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirement
Assemblymember Anthony Pescetti (R) intends to introduce legislation "early next year" requiring health practitioners to have malpractice insurance, the Sacramento Bee reports. Pescetti said that most doctors and dentists already have the insurance, and that he is not expecting much opposition. The announcement comes after a woman who was sexually abused by a dentist without malpractice insurance began a "crusade" to require practitioners to carry insurance. Industry "experts" say that, even without state regulation, "self-policing" is a common practice among health care professionals. Delta Dental requires its providers to carry a minimum of $100,000 in malpractice insurance. Delta spokesperson Jeff Album said, "As a matter of practicality, all of our dentists should be current with their insurance. But we would support a state requirement for malpractice coverage because ultimately it would protect the public, since not all dentists outside our network have this insurance." There is currently no law requiring malpractice insurance for health care practitioners, according to Mike Luery, a spokesperson for the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
Some members of the health profession do not believe that legislation is needed. According to Rick Mortimer, president of Health Care Professionals' Insurance Services in Orange County, only those doctors who have medical malpractice insurance can gain admitting privileges at a hospital. He added that rather than looking to the government to regulate malpractice insurance, patients need to be more cautious when choosing health care providers, demanding to see proof of malpractice insurance before selecting. Ken Sigelman, chair of the medical malpractice committee of the Consumer Attorneys of California, expressed concern that the measure might lead practitioners who already have insurance to lower their coverage. California currently places a $250,000 cap on medical malpractice "pain and suffering" awards, but Sigelman said most physicians invest in more coverage investments. If state legislation had lower limits than what most providers currently pay, Sigelman said, some physicians might choose to lower their coverage to meet that limit (Payne/Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 12/1).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.