Medical Malpractice Crisis

Is a new crisis looming in medical malpractice insurance? An AMA analysis finds that medical liability premiums are skyrocketing again – and radiologists may be among the physicians most affected due to their higher exposure to malpractice suits.

The proportion of medical liability premiums that increased year-to-year for OB/GYN, general surgery, and internal medicine doctors (radiologists weren’t surveyed) doubled from 2018 to 2019 (13.7% to 26.5%), and went up 30% year-to-year from 2020 to 2022. The last time rates rose this fast was during the medical liability crisis of the early 2000s, according to the AMA paper.

Insurers are raising premiums due to deteriorating underwriting results, lower loss reserve margins, and lower returns on investment, per the report. These trends are echoed in a new analysis of the medical malpractice segment by credit agency AM Best, which describes a “difficult environment” for medical liability insurers. The medical professional liability segment has seen eight straight years of underwriting losses.

Why should radiologists care? Well, radiologists are more likely to have experienced medical liability claims during their career than most other physicians. Another AMA survey of over 6k doctors found

  • Radiologists were more likely to say they had been sued in their career than all physician types (40.2% vs. 32.1%)
  • More radiologists have experienced a lawsuit in the past year than all physicians (4.2% vs. 2.0%)
  • The only other medical specialists more likely to be sued than radiologists were surgeons (48.9%) and emergency medicine physicians (46.8%) 

The first AMA report closes by saying that a medical liability insurance “hard” market – a market characterized by rapid price increases – already exists in a number of states, and is “slowly spreading” across the rest of the US. 

Further, there is “striking” geographic variation in premiums. OB/GYNs in Los Angeles County, California see average manual premiums of $49,804 a year, while those in Miami-Dade County, Florida are staring at a $226,224 liability insurance bill.

The Takeaway 

The AMA said the growing medical malpractice crisis could have multiple ramifications. Physicians in states with difficult liability environments could relocate or even drop some clinical services that raise their risk. Will the worsening environment draw the attention of state and federal regulators? Only time will tell. 

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