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Published: January 6, 2020

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • 34% of physicians have had a claim filed against them
  • General surgeons more susceptible to being sued
  • Wide geographic variation for insurance premiums

The American Medical Association (AMA) released several reports in its Policy Research Perspective series illustrating the price Americans pay for the nation’s medical liability system.

Dr. David O. Barbe, president of the AMA, said that the research paints a bleak picture of physicians’ experiences with medical liability claims as well as associated cost burdens on the health system.

The first report analyzed the frequency of medical liability claims among patient care physicians in the U.S. and found that getting sued is virtually a matter of when, not if, for physicians.

Report highlights:

  • Getting sued is not an uncommon event for physicians. Approximately 34 percent of physicians have had a claim filed against them at some point in their careers.
  • Since older physicians have been in practice for a longer time and have had more exposure, the probability of getting sued increases with age. Nearly half of physicians 55 years old and over have been sued, compared to 8.2 percent of physicians under the age of 40.
  • Before they reach the age of 55, more than 50 percent of general surgeons and obstetricians/gynecologists have already been sued.

The second report analyzed compensation payments, expenses, and claim disposition.

Report Highlights:

  • The average expense incurred on medical liability claims that closed in 2015 was $54,165 – a substantial increase of 64.5 percent since 2006.
  • In 2015, 68.2 percent of all closed claims were dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn; however, they are not cost-free. Each of these claims costs an average of $30,475 to defend, accounting for more than one-third (38.4 percent) of total expenses incurred.
  • In about 25 percent of claims, an indemnity payment was paid to the claimant.

The third report analyzed annual changes in medical liability insurance premiums for 2008-2017 from the Annual Rate Survey Issues of the Medical Liability Monitor.

Report Highlights:

  • Since 2015, more premiums increased than decreased, reversing the trend of the earlier part of the study. In 2017, 13.4 percent of premiums were higher than those for 2016.
  • Physicians continue to face high costs of insuring themselves against medical liability claims. There is wide geographic variation in premiums. In some areas of New York, premiums for obstetricians/gynecologists reached $214,999 in 2017, while premiums for obstetricians/gynecologists in some areas of California were $49,804.

For additional information on the reports, visit the AMA website.

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