Rising medical liability insurance coverage costs, driven by nuclear verdicts and other trends, are the new normal for medical professionals, impacting most specialties. But, as shown by Aon/ASHRM benchmarks, rising medical liability costs has not hit all specialties equally.
Health systems face a new set of obstacles when insuring their practices. 2016-2019 set records for settlement costs, with the average MPL verdict rising 50% to $23 million, according to the American Society of Healthcare Risk Management. Changing perspectives of juries overseeing malpractice cases, negative public sentiment towards large medical organizations, and new industries specializing in pursuing medical malpractice have significantly increased coverage costs. An Aon/ASHRM benchmark analysis found that the rising trend especially impacts the fields of Emergency Medicine and Obstetrics.
Emergency medicine saw a sharp increase in claim severity in 2015 and remains above $200,000, limited to $2M per occurrence as of 2021. The specialty stands out for the consistency of its high severity cases, driven by emergency departments' high-stress and time-crucial work. They face higher rates of malpractice since professionals working in emergency fields have limited time to give high-quality diagnoses and treatments, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.
Average indemnity payments and average expense also rise above the rest, with average indemnity payments $38,000 higher than all claims resulting in higher overall medical liability insurance rates for this category of specialists.
Recent numbers from the Aon/ASHRM report also confirm high severity numbers for obstetrics. The field faces severity claims 60% higher than overall statistics, and current estimates predict claim size will increase by 3% annually. Claim severity limited to $2M per occurrence has hovered around the 318,000 mark since 2014. As for average closed claim numbers, average Obstetrics indemnity payments and expenses from 2016 to 2020 are double that of all other claims.
Major drivers for such high obstetric costs of liability coverage include the inherent dangers of handling childbirth and the fact that the statute of limitations can extend up until the baby is an adult, meaning up to 18 years of vulnerability to lawsuits.
Coverage trends can impact the way specialists practice, especially in these high-stress fields, and unfortunately, patients often must stomach the costs passed along by providers.
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