In early 2023, Iowa’s Governor Kim Reynolds is expected to sign into law historic tort reforms that will impose an increase on caps for non-economic medical malpractice damages. Despite bi-partisan opposition, the Iowa House and Senate passed House File 161 on February 8, 2023, which caps the monetary amount at $1 million that a jury may award a plaintiff for pain and suffering in a malpractice lawsuit. The key features of this bill include:
Imposes a $1 million-dollar cap on non-economic damages awarded for body function impairment, disfigurement, or death in malpractice lawsuits against individual physicians or clinics. The cap increases to $2 million if a hospital is also named in the suit
Increases the amount of the caps by 2.1% each year starting in 2028
Amends the exceptions to Iowa’s previous $250,000 non-economic damages cap that allowed juries to award more than that amount if they determined it was not just compensation for the injuries sustained. Two judgments in 2022 stand out as examples: $97.4 million in the case of a newborn infant who suffered permanent brain damage due to medical errors during delivery; and a $27 million award to a patient whose bacterial meningitis was misdiagnosed
Backers of the bill are counting on the new reforms to retain Iowa’s physicians and other healthcare workers. Most of all, they want to stop the constant flood of physicians who are leaving the state to practice in areas of the U.S. with more favorable malpractice legislation and damage caps. Legislators also believe that the reforms will help to attract new healthcare employees to the state’s hospitals and clinics – as well as private practice physicians and surgeons – to boost the accessibility of healthcare for the state’s estimated 3.2 million residents. In 2022, Iowa ranked 44th in the U.S. for the number of active physicians per capita. In particular, it has been difficult for the state to recruit and retain specialists, such as OB-GYNs, surgeons, and physicians in other specialty fields that, unfortunately, are historically more vulnerable to malpractice lawsuits.
Ensuring robust malpractice coverage: What Iowa physicians can do now
However, by establishing higher-dollar non-economic cap amounts, this legislation sets the stage for a gradual increase in medical malpractice insurance rates in the state. In fact, opponents to the new reforms have expressed concern that a rise in insurance costs could become yet another factor driving the state’s struggle to attract more physicians. Fortunately, there are proactive ways to make practicing medicine in Iowa more favorable now, starting with ensuring robust protection against personal and professional loss with the right malpractice insurance.
If you are a physician or surgeon in private practice in Iowa, here are several steps you can take now to prepare for the possible ramifications of Iowa’s new malpractice legislation:
Do you have more than adequate malpractice coverage, or will you need to increase your coverage or possibly change carriers? Will you need tail insurance?
Consult with an experienced malpractice insurance broker to review your current malpractice coverage in light of Iowa’s higher non-economic caps and possible rate hikes. A broker gives you the advantage of being a single point of contact with multiple carriers, so you’ll be able to compare a wide range of coverage and rate quotes more easily and in less time.
Are you covered by a reputable carrier with an AM Best “A” rating?
Ask your broker to provide quotes from several “A” rated carriers serving the Iowa healthcare marketplace with a proven reputation for financial stability and successful representation of policyholders in malpractice suits.
Do you have the right type of medical malpractice policy for your specialty and practice in Iowa?
Learn more about Claims-Made and the other different types of malpractice insurance in MEDPLI’s comprehensive guide. Then contact us to discuss your best options and request a quote.
How do you see your practice evolving and growing over the next 5 years?
Discuss with your malpractice insurance broker how your coverage can best prepare you with the best protection when the incremental cap increases begin in 2028. Also, from a purely business standpoint, consider how to market your practice to stand out from the competition as Iowa potentially attracts a new influx of private practice physicians and surgeons.
Questions about medical malpractice insurance in Iowa? MEDPLI can help!
The medical malpractice landscape in Iowa is going through historic changes, but you don’t have to navigate them alone. MEDPLI malpractice insurance experts are ready to answer your questions and help you secure robust coverage designed for your specialty and practice in Iowa. Call us for a quote at 1-800-969-1339 or contact us here.