Mass. Doctors Decry Latest Malpractice Hike

May 18, 2004

Massachusetts doctors face their fourth straight year of double-digit malpractice insurance rate increases, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society, with the average rate from the region’s largest insurer scheduled to rise by 11.3 percent in July.

“We’re really concerned about where this is going,” said Dr. Alan C. Woodward, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “This is a crisis for physicians, but more it’s a crisis for patients if they can’t get the doctors they need.”

ProMutual Group, the region’s largest insurer covering 10,000 of the state’s doctors, blames costly jury awards for the spiraling increase in rates.

ProMutual raised rates 20 percent last year, and 12.5 percent in 2002.

This year, diagnostic radiologists will see the largest rate hike, with an average jump of 32.4 percent, the medical society said. That will bring premiums to $18,288 from $13,816 annually.

Rates are expected to go up 26.4 percent for neurosurgeons, and 3.5 percent for obstetricians. Malpractice premiums for Bay State neurosurgeons will climb to more than $90,000, the society said.

Internists who do not perform surgery, the most common specialty, will pay $12,000, a jump of 15 percent.

Child psychiatrists, who have some of the lowest malpractice rates, will pay just over $15,000 starting July 1, also a 15 percent increase.

ProMutual’s chairman, Dr. Barry M. Manuel, a surgery professor at Boston University, said insurers are not forcing doctors to pay for company loses in the financial markets.

“In the past 10 years, there’s not one year that we’ve shown a negative return on our investments,” Manuel aid. “It’s the severity of awards that’s driving this situation.”

Manuel said the number of Massachusetts jury awards topping $2 million has quadrupled over five years.

Massachusetts doctors are pushing for federal and state legislation to limit jury awards and the type of experts called during malpractice trials. State Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, was expected to file legislation this week that will include such limits.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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