A Doctor With Medical Malpractice Insurance Placing A Arkansas Flag Surgical Mask Over Her Face
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Arkansas Medical Professional Liability Insurance Market Summary

Doctors in Arkansas have several good options for medical liability insurance. The best insurers in the state are:

  • The Doctors Company

  • State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co

  • MMIC Group (Arkansas Mutual)

  • Medical Protective Group

  • Mag Mutual Insurance Group

  • LAMMICO Group

  • ProAssurance Group

These companies have proven to provide robust financial and legal support for doctors, and all have an A-rating from A.M. Best.

These carriers use proprietary methodologies to set rates and there is no set standard rate across insurers for each specialty. However, Arkansas physicians tend to buy policies with $1,000,000 a claim/$3,000,000 aggregate per year in coverage.

Historically, the medical malpractice insurance marketplace in Arkansas was stable into the early 2000’s when suddenly, the state’s largest medical malpractice insurance carrier, St. Paul Companies, left the marketplace. This influenced other, smaller carriers to also leave the state, causing medical malpractice insurance rates to skyrocket.

In response, the Arkansas Medical Society pushed for legislation to regulate premiums, with the state eventually passing the Civil Justice Reform Act in 2003. However, since that time, 3 of the major provisions of the legislation have been struck down by the state Supreme Court, and further tort reform legislation continues to face legal challenges. Despite these barriers, the medical malpractice insurance market in Arkansas is currently stable, physicians experience a lower than average number of malpractice claims, and the state’s marketplace offers affordable premiums for doctors across specialties.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Requirements for Arkansas in 2021

As is the case with most states, doctors in Arkansas are not required to obtain malpractice insurance. However, hospitals and other healthcare facilities in the state may require physicians to carry medical malpractice insurance while working in their facility. The average physician requirement for coverage by Arkansas medical facilities is $1,000,000 per claim, $3,000,000 per year.

Although liability insurance isn’t a requirement to practice in the state, even the most competent medical professionals need to protect against the possibility of a medical malpractice lawsuit. Working with an independent broker to secure comprehensive medical malpractice insurance is a fundamental component of reducing risk in your practice.

Medical Malpractice Insurance and COVID-19 in Arkansas

In June of 2021, Arkansas was one of five U.S. states with less than 35% of its population vaccinated, placing the state at high risk for outbreaks of the Delta variant. Governor Asa Hutchinson agreed, stating that low vaccination rates are the reason Covid cases were surging in 2021, but he believes that implementing a vaccine mandate only increases resistance.

The increase in cases has put a large strain on the healthcare industry, including hospital systems in major cities like Little Rock. Staffing shortages, PPE shortages, changing guidelines around patient care, and the worry about potential litigation resulting from COVID-19 are only some of the challenges doctors and specialists face as a result of the pandemic.

In these unpredictable times, it is recommended that any physician practicing medicine in Arkansas during the COVID-19 public health emergency be protected by medical malpractice insurance.

Telemedicine in Arkansas

In April of 2015, Arkansas enacted a telemedicine parity law requiring coverage for telemedicine by Medicaid, private insurance, and state employee health plans. After the COVID-19 public health emergency was declared in the state, lawmakers quickly worked to promote the use of telemedicine in the state, including allowing “physicians licensed in Arkansas who have access to a patient’s personal health record to establish a professional relationship with a patient using any technology deemed appropriate by the provider, including the telephone, with a citizen located in Arkansas to diagnose, treat and prescribe non-controlled drugs.” In addition, the state also:

  • permitted physicians practicing in any border state to apply for a Border State Temporary License in an effort to offer continued care to their established Arkansas patients

  • permitted medical residents with at least one year of postgraduate training to apply for an Emergency Temporary License

  • allowed licensed ambulatory surgery centers to operate under a temporary hospital license (with the exception of requiring an ER)

  • created legislation protecting medical professionals providing care to contain and treat the COVID-19 epidemic and health care workers practicing outside of their normal scope of practice from being sued

As public health emergency orders are set to expire in 2021, it remains to be seen whether legislation related to telehealth will continue under these relaxed rules. Since physicians are always held to the same standard of care regardless of whether they are practicing via telehealth or in-person, it is recommended that doctors carry insurance that specifically covers telemedicine.

Malpractice Insurance Rates for Arkansas Doctors

Rates in Arkansas are very affordable when compared to the average per state throughout the country. Since most insurance companies classify Arkansas as a single territory, rates for malpractice insurance don’t vary much across the state. See below for approximate rates for limits of $1,000,000 Each Claim/$3,000,000 Aggregate (the most common limits of liability in Arkansas). Higher-risk specialties may need more coverage.

Specialty  Approximate Rate
Anesthesiology $12,000
Cardiovascular Disease Minor Surgery $12,000
Emergency Medicine $19,000
Family Practice No Surgery $9,000
General Practice No Surgery $8,000
General Surgery $26,000
Internal Medicine No Surgery $8,000
Obstetrics and Gynecology Major Surgery $42,000
Occupational Medicine $6,000
Ophthalmology No Surgery $6,000
Orthopedic Surgery No Spine $26,000
Pathology No Surgery $7,000
Pediatrics No Surgery $8,000
Psychiatry $6,000
Radiology – Diagnostic $9,000

Tort Reform in Arkansas

In 2003, the state passed the Civil Justice Reform Act. Among other things, this act:

  • Abolished joint and several liability, in which two or more parties can be held independently liable for the full amount of a personal injury

  • Permitted nonparty fault allocation, where the claimant has settled with one party but takes the remaining parties to trial

  • Required a “good-cause” affidavit for medical malpractice suits, with an expert witness in the same specialty as the defendant attesting to the validity of the claim

  • Placed a cap on punitive damages

Eventually, all but the abolishment of joint and several liability were ruled as unconstitutional.

Tort reform continues to be a pressing issue in Arkansas, with measures to limit medical malpractice award payouts appearing twice on the ballot in 2016 and again in 2018. In 2016, the Arkansas court ruled that the votes should not be counted due to the fact that the phrase “non-economic damages” was not adequately defined to voters. In 2018, when the measure appeared for a second time on the ballot, the court ruled again that the votes could not be counted due to the fact that the voters were not adequately informed about the consequences of the proposal. Additional tort reform measures are expected to appear on the ballot in 2021.

Arkansas’s Damage Caps on Medical Malpractice Lawsuits

There is currently no cap on non-economic medical malpractice damages in Arkansas, including compensation for pain and suffering. Economic damages are also not currently capped. Economic damages are quantifiable and specific monetary losses related to an injury and include things like medical bills (past, present, and future), lost wages, and diminished future earning capacity.

Statute of Limitations for Medical Malpractice Claims

The major guidelines regarding Arkansas’s medical malpractice statute of limitation are as follows:

  • An individual in Arkansas is required to file a medical malpractice claim within two years from the date of injury

  • In cases where a foreign object was left in the body, a medical malpractice claim must be filed within one year of the date of discovery

  • For minors, if the injury occurred before the age of nine, the claimant has until the child’s 11th birthday to file a claim

  • For minors, in the instance of delayed discovery, individuals have two years to file after the date of discovery. Once the minor turns 19, however, they are not likely to successfully file a claim

Tail Insurance in Arkansas

Doctors practicing in Arkansas that have a claims-made policy but DON’T have Prior Acts insurance (also known as Nose Coverage) need a tail insurance policy to ensure that they’re protected from malpractice claims when changing jobs. Your exposure period begins with your retroactive date (the first date of employment with your last employer) and ends on the policy cancellation date (your last day seeing patients at that job). If a claim is made after your policy expires, tail malpractice insurance will protect you. Often before you begin a new job, your new employer will want to confirm you have tail coverage from your prior job. To get the best rates on tail insurance in Arkansas, contact a broker before you notify your employer of your resignation.

When and why is tail insurance necessary?

When a physician ends their employment, their insurance coverage with that employer also ends. Because most liability policies are underwritten on a claims-made basis, if a claim is filed against you after you leave your employer and your insurance coverage has already ended, you can be exposed to a lawsuit. Tail insurance covers you from your retroactive date up to the last day the policy is in effect – with the ability to report claims years after the last day. Read more about options for tail insurance.

Medical Malpractice Insurance Outcomes in Arkansas for 2020

The total medical malpractice payout in Arkansas for 2020 was $7,072,500.
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Closing Remarks

Overall, Arkansas is a hospitable place for physicians to practice medicine. In 2017, the state was ranked by Physician’s Practice as one of the top 5 best states to practice medicine, scoring highly in terms of physician density, cost of living and residency retention. According to the National Practitioner Databank, Arkansas has a lower number of malpractice claims per 100 physicians than the national average.

While the primary care workforce is growing despite the number of retiring physicians across the state, Arkansas still ranks eighth in the nation for primary care physician need. In the past decade, rural counties in the Arkansas Delta have lost half of their primary care doctors. To help combat this, the University of Arkansas College of Medicine offers educational loans and scholarships for the purpose of increasing the number of physicians practicing medicine in rural communities in Arkansas.

MEDPLI helps doctors from all specialties. Whether you are an OB/Gyn in Little Rock, a surgeon in Fort Smith, or an anesthesiologist in Fayetteville, we can help you find medical malpractice insurance. To get coverage from an A-rated carrier, contact us by requesting a quote.