Are malpractice insurance premiums going up in 2023? The short answer is yes. However, as in years past, the amount of increase will likely vary from state to state and by type of surgical specialty. The premium you pay is also influenced by the amount and type of coverage you buy, number of any previous claims and their outcomes, and even the location and size of your practice.
For example, surgeons in the fields of neurosurgery, bariatrics, orthopedics, OB/GYN, plastic surgery, and urology are among the top 10 medical specialists most likely to be sued, so they are more likely to carry more coverage at a higher premium cost. As for types of coverage, Occurrence Form Coverage is preferable since it does not require tail coverage at a future time.
Occurrence coverage remains relatively level through the years, compared with claims-made (the most common form of malpractice insurance). Claims-made medical malpractice insurance rates, for example, are designed to start out relatively low, but increase annually over the first four to five years, and tail coverage will cost another 200-300% of expiring premium in most cases. Learn more about claims-made policies and why they are more beneficial for physicians than claims-paid form.
Trends in premium increases over the past three years may be a sign of what to expect in 2023. In March of 2022, an analysis by American Medical Association (AMA) found an “exceptional surge” in medical malpractice insurance annual renewal rates between 2019 and 2021. With increases varying from state to state, Illinois led the surge with the largest at 35.3%, and Idaho and Washington with the lowest at 10%. Here are some of the key factors in the current malpractice litigation landscape that play a role in driving premium rates higher:
1. Severity of claims with larger payouts
Although Illinois had the largest premium increase in 2021, an Illinois Courts statistical report found that malpractice claim filings actually decreased by 43%. Medscape’s Malpractice Report 2021 also uncovered a significant decrease in malpractice suits across the country in 2020 and 2021. The COVID pandemic played a role in delaying many suits from going to court. So why did malpractice insurance premiums double during that time period? The severity of the claims that were filed and the resulting higher monetary settlements to plaintiffs was a primary deciding factor. According to a June 2022 Medscape Medical News article, insurers are concerned about the “record-high verdicts” in U.S. malpractice cases that have become more common across the country. Although not all claims command such high rewards, even a small number can affect premium costs.
2. Rising cost of legal fees
Malpractice insurance carriers typically retain and pay the fees of legal counsel for the physician/policyholder in a lawsuit. Legal defense costs for a malpractice suit can average between $50,000 – $100,000 and even more for lengthy or complex cases. For insurance carriers, this expense is a core contributing factor for premium hikes.
3. Economic inflation
The overall health or decline of the U.S. economy also greatly influences malpractice litigation costs and therefore insurance premiums. According to a publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, consumer prices shot up 9.1% between June 2021 and June 2022 — the biggest increase in 40 years. With the cost of basic living expenses such as food, electricity, and auto fuel at an all-time high, plaintiff lawyers in malpractice cases are asking for higher monetary compensation for their plaintiffs – resulting in higher payouts for malpractice insurance carriers when policyholders lose a case.
Reduce malpractice risk. Potentially reduce costs.
Keep in mind that many malpractice insurance carriers generally raise premiums every year based on the various factors discussed here to keep their pool of insurance funds solvent. Rate increases are better than carrier insolvency, which has left many doctors without valid protection when companies like Capson, Oceanus, etc. became insolvent. Increasing premiums across the board for all policies is the typical way that carriers protect against unexpected significant losses so they can ensure coverage for everyone. However, avoiding medical malpractice lawsuits is the best way to potentially avoid an exceptionally high premium increase.
Here are three ways you can reduce your risk of malpractice suits and potentially keep escalating premium renewal costs in check:
Need coverage now? MEDPLI medical malpractice insurance brokers can help you find the right coverage from top carriers – at the best rates. Call us at 1-800-969-1339 to protect your practice or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.