The rise and fall of medical liability premiums
■ Commentary from other news and opinion sources
Posted Nov. 5, 2012.
Medical liability premiums for physicians have increased and decreased through the years, depending on the insurance market and whether doctors practiced in states with effective tort reforms.
American Medical News has long reported on the changing medical liability climate and how physicians have pursued relief from high rates and frivolous lawsuits through tort reforms, especially noneconomic damages caps. Our coverage of the latest data on premiums shows that rates held steady or decreased in 2012, continuing a recent trend. That's in sharp contrast to the premium hikes of a decade ago, which prompted physicians to explore new ways to stem the tide of rising rates.
For the fifth year in a row, medical liability insurance premiums fell in 2012, according to the annual report by Medical Liability Monitor. Although that is a positive development for physicians, insurers and industry observers say the soft liability insurance market may change. It is expected to harden in several years, and rates probably will rise again. Read story
In 2006, spikes in premiums turned into reductions and stable rates, thanks in part to tort reforms. Insurers said the stability also was due to a continued decline in medical liability lawsuits. Even with those improvements, doctors said their premiums were still high. Read story
In 2001 and 2004, we examined state data on medical liability insurance rate filings. The analysis found that at least one insurer in 34 states raised rates by 25% or more in 2004, almost double the number of states with such increases in 2001. More doctors said they were factoring liability premiums into their practice decisions. Read story
After years of being hit with high premiums, some doctors tried different approaches to try to keep rates from skyrocketing. In Connecticut, for example, doctors, trial lawyers and patients wrote to the state's insurance commissioner and asked about the need for a nearly 90% rate increase by one insurer. Medical societies also gave closer scrutiny to insurer requests for rate increases. Read story