Electronic Medical Records

Electronic Medical Records

What To Analyze When Buying Medical Malpractice Insurance

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In this day and age, litigation is part and parcel of any professional practice. Knowing that, you've decided it's time to get serious about medical malpractice insurance. When it's finally time to consider your options, make sure that you review some of the following factors.

State-related laws and rules

Did you know that at least 12 states -; Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, S. Dakota, and Wisconsin - enforce minimum levels of medical malpractice coverage? These coverage amounts vary from $100,000 per year all the way up to $1,000,000 per occurrence. For the annual aggregate, the coverage amounts vary from $300,000 up to $3,000,000.

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In other states, while mandatory insurance is not the rule, insurance is encouraged in other ways. For instance, in some states, physicians who aren't covered may be ineligible for certain programs. You might be excluded from programs that place caps on damages or have patient compensation funds, for example.

For the latest specifics related to medical malpractice coverage within your state, check for resources available through your local government and state insurance commissioner. It's worth noting that the regulations vary per type of provider, with different policies governing optometrists, podiatrists, and even chiropractors and massage therapists.

Other factors

When you decide to get coverage, don't be embarrassed to ask questions. Make sure that you shop around and compare premiums and policy terms. Ask whether coverage is on a claims made or occurrence basis. Rather than explaining the difference, I'll provide an example.

Let's say that you treated a patient in 2011. Let's also say that the same patient decided to file a claim against you in 2012 for that previous treatment. Under a claims made policy, you would only be covered if two conditions were met, as follows:

  1. You had insurance in 2012 when the claim was made
  2. You were also continuously covered from the treatment date (2011) until the claim date

Basically, you'll be covered if you're insured on the date of the claim for an incident that occurred on, or after, the date that you first became insured (the retroactive date).

Using our example for an occurrence-based policy, you would only be covered for the treatment in 2011 if you actually had medical malpractice insurance at the time. Said another way, under an occurrence-type policy, you'd be covered forever for the incident in 2011, even if you were uninsured or insured by someone else in 2012 (when the claim is made).

But, besides different policy types, there are other considerations. How much coverage should you buy? Look into what other practitioners in your state are buying. Ask about the premiums and whether they're payable every quarter, twice a year, or annually.

Here's another question: Are discounts available if claims aren't made against you or if you take risk-prevention classes? Besides these kind of issues, find out if the insurer offers a deductible. Although a deductible might lower your premium now, you may have to pay the deductible if a claim arises in the future.

Statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is another critical issue to be aware of that varies from state to state. In short, it limits the time a patient (or their family members) can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. In most states it's between 1 to 3 years from the date or discovery of injury. Once this time limit has expired, no medical malpractice claim may be filed. To learn more about the specific statute of limitation and other malpractice regulations for your state, use this state by state guide.

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