More Doctors Ask Patients To Pay Surcharges To Help Cover Malpractice Insurance Costs
The Los Angeles Times on Monday examined the "small but growing number" of physicians who have begun to require patients to pay surcharges to help cover the cost of malpractice insurance premiums. In many cases, physicians ask patients to voluntarily contribute $10 to $25 because under Medicare law, they cannot charge patients extra fees. Other physicians have begun to require patients with private health insurance or without coverage to pay such surcharges.
Some opponents maintain that many physicians require patients to pay such surcharges only to "heat up the issue" of medical liability reform among voters and to "force politicians to more seriously explore" the issue, the Times reports. Other critics of the practice and consumer groups also raise concerns that such surcharges might limit access to health care for low-income patients who cannot afford to pay the fees.
Clarence Braddock, an associate professor of medicine at the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, said, "Patients may feel an undue pressure to pay the fee, either because they don't want to anger their doctor or because they fear if they don't, they may lose their right to sue if something untoward happens." According to American Medical Association President and obstetrician John Nelson, "Doctors aren't trying to make profit off this. They're just trying to stay in business." AMA in December plans to issue guidelines for physicians who require patients to pay such surcharges (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 10/25).