Anesthesiologists can face lengthy and costly medical malpractice claims due to the high-risk nature of the specialty.
Of the 53,000 anesthesiologists practicing in the country, 36% will be sued at least once in their careers. An extensive medical malpractice insurance policy protects them from the significant costs of a claim.
MEDPLI helps anesthesiologists find comprehensive malpractice coverage from an A-rated carrier and save up to 28% on premiums.
Anesthesiologist Medical Malpractice Insurance Rates
Insurance premiums for anesthesiologists differ by city and state. Mature claims-made estimates below are for informational purposes only. Occurrence coverage may be available. To get your personalized rate estimate, please request a quote.
|State||City||Premium Estimate||Limits of Liability|
|KS||Wichita||$17,000 + KS HCSF||$200,000/$600,000|
|IN||Indianapolis||$17,000 + IN PCF||$250,000/$750,000|
|LA||New Orleans||$20,000 + LA PCF||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
|NM**||Albuquerque||$20,000 + NM PCF||$200,000/600,000|
|PA||Philadelphia||$26,000 + MCARE||$500,000/$1,500,000|
|UT||Salt Lake City||$22,000||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
|WI||Milwaukee||$16,000 + PCF||$1,000,000/$3,000,000|
*These states offer limit options
** Only Occurrence; no Claims-Made coverage
Why Anesthesiologists Need Medical Malpractice Insurance
Anesthesiologists treat many patient types, undergoing a wide range of procedures. Candidates’ individual risk factors, coupled with the delicate nature of administering anesthetics, leave anesthesiologists vulnerable to be sued.
Anesthesiologists tend to be sued for:
Awareness during general anesthesia
Poor patient monitoring
Failure to administer anesthetic plan
Failure to review medical history pre-operation
Critical events, such as coma or death
Despite a significant decrease in anesthesia claims in the past 10 years, anesthesiologists continue to face the same risks of a lawsuit as other surgical professionals. The standard deadline for filing a malpractice suit is between 1-4 years, depending on the state. However, the “discovery rule” acts as an exception, resetting the statute of limitations to the time of discovery and putting anesthesiologists at an extended risk. Patients who are minors or mentally disabled may also have more time. Some states have imposed tort reform limiting damage payouts, but these can still be up to $2.5 million in some parts of the US.
The right medical malpractice insurance will protect you from multiple factors in the event of a lawsuit, including:
Monetary damages awarded to the plaintiff
Though many (not all) states have no legal requirement for anesthesiologists to carry liability insurance, most hospitals and surgery centers require it and may not add practicing anesthesia providers to a group plan.
How Anesthesiologists Can Reduce the Risk of Malpractice
The stress of being sued can be devastating, even if there’s ultimately no payment to the patient. It can take years to decades to close a case, and the worry that anesthesiologists feel plus the potential resulting damage to their reputations can make some practitioners want to leave the practice altogether. Fortunately, there are steps that anesthesiologists can take to reduce the risk of ever having to defend themselves in court.
In the event of a lawsuit, anesthesiologists need to recall the details behind the care they provided – sometimes years later – and thorough documentation that is completed during or immediately after the patient visit is key to recreating the circumstances of care. In the case of intraoperative monitoring (especially during an adverse event), you can’t make changes to the electronic health record after the fact, but you can make additions through progress notes if you were too busy caring for the patient to chart. The ultimate goal is to show that you, as the anesthesiologist, acted responsibly and adhered to the standard of care. In addition, robust documentation can potentially keep anesthesiologists from going to court in the first place.
Anesthesiologists who take the time to explain and educate, truly listen to their patients’ concerns, and apologize when they’ve made a mistake are sued less often. Anesthesiologists should have an anesthesia-specific informed consent document that is separate from the surgical consent that addresses the types of anesthesia available, the risks and benefits of each type, and alternatives. If a patient is receiving regional anesthesia, explain the potential need to convert to general anesthesia and obtain consent beforehand. You’ll want a robust record to fall back on if a patient testifies that they don’t remember discussing anesthesia risks.
Dental injuries are the most frequently encountered adverse event in anesthesia, making up around a quarter of anesthesia related claims. The informed consent process should include the risk of dental damage to patients, plus a thorough exam and discussion about any dental work they’ve had done that might interfere with surgery or cause additional risk. Documenting this discussion in the patient’s chart can be an effective way to an anesthesiologist’s exposure to a dental-related malpractice claim.
Medical Malpractice Insurance Challenges for Anesthesiologists
As an anesthesiologist, you know that taking shortcuts can result in serious patient harm, and it’s your duty to make sure your patient receives safe care. Unfortunately, some facilities or providers can rush the anesthesiologist in an effort to keep the pace of care level with the demand for services. If anesthesiologists feel pressured to work too quickly, they can be placing the facility and themselves at risk. It’s important for anesthesiologists to advocate for ample time to conduct pre-anesthesia evaluations, thorough time outs, and equipment checks.
Just as anesthesiologists can feel rushed to provide care, they can also feel coerced to provide care to patients that are not qualified candidates for anesthesia care. For example, at a surgeon or facility’s insistence, an anesthesiologist may feel pressured to sedate someone with an inappropriate BMI who, for safety reasons, should be referred to another facility.
Some surgeons adopt a possessive attitude towards their patients and feel that whatever they say should be carried out without question, leaving many anesthesiologists hesitant to speak up about a patient’s condition until they detect severe or pre arrest symptoms. Anesthesia providers have a duty and a responsibility to that patient as well. If anesthesiologists don’t voice their concerns and there’s an injury or malpractice suit, it’s ultimately their license, reputation, and money on the line.
Rising Insurance Premiums
Across the board, insurance premiums are rising for medical professionals of all specialties, and the same can be predicted for anesthesiologists. In general, doctors’ medical malpractice insurance rates are on the rise as a result of increasing healthcare liability defense costs and larger indemnity payments.